By Lincoln DePradine
Cecil Peters has been an educator all his life. Now, he’s about to make a career change, plunging into the world of politics and challenging a longtime MP of the Liberal Party of Canada.
On Monday, Peters received the nomination to be the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for Etobicoke North in the upcoming federal elections.
The national poll is September 20 and Peters will be one of a handful of Black candidates.
“This is a calling. I have to answer that call,’’ Peters told The Caribbean Camera, explaining his decision to enter electoral politics for the first time.
Although he was born in Grenada, Peters said he “grew up as Canadian’’, recalling singing the Canadian national anthem regularly as a school student. His father and one of Peters’ uncles were principals of Canadian-built schools in Grenada.
Peters taught at primary school in Grenada and migrated to Canada in 1989. On the same day of arrival in Canada, said Peters, his first daughter was born at a local hospital.
“I love this country,’’ said Peters, who has been a Toronto District School Board teacher for more than 20 years.
In the election next month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be trying to lead his Liberal Party to victory and to a third consecutive term of office.
He’s being challenged by the NDP headed by Jagmeet Singh; the Conservatives of Erin O’Toole; Bloc Québécois of Yves-Francois Blanchet; Green Party led by Annamie Paul; and the People’s Party of Maxime Bernier.
Peters will be attempting to unseat Kirsty Duncan, who has been Liberal MP for Etobicoke North since 2008.
His campaign focus includes plans for the economy and the education sector.
“Until the end of the pandemic, I think we should be giving university students some sort of stipend, because they cannot get jobs right now,’’ Peters said, offering one suggestion on education.
He is concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected renters and also has recommended a “tax break’’ for frontline workers such as nurses, police officers, teachers and grocery store employees.
“Because of COVID, we have to have a better package for the people who have lost their jobs and for people struggling to pay rent. Right now, the package is primarily for business,’’ Peters said.
“We need a sustainable economy. With this pandemic, all the argument I’m hearing is the same old debate. To me, that’s a relic of the past and we have to think forward.’’
Peters also is a musician and community activist, who has been very vocal on the discriminatory practice known as police carding. He has attended public consultations on the matter in Toronto, as well as in Hamilton, London and Ottawa.
He has argued that carding shouldn’t be “regulated’’ but ought to be “eliminated’’.
If victorious as a candidate, Peters has promised that he would continue to fight against anti-Black racism and also to advocate on other issues such as Indigenous People’s rights.
“In Canada, I want them to recognize the mandate that we have to honour the Decade for People of African Descent. This is something that the U.N. mandated and it’s not happening. Prime Minister Trudeau just gave us a little money and we had to fight for it and now he’s let it go,’’ Peters said.
The contesting political parties, in order to form a majority government, must win at least 170 of 337 seats.
The election is taking place less than two years after Canadians last voted in 2019.
“As Canadians know, this is a moment where we’re going to be taking decisions that will last not just for the coming months but for the coming decades,’’ Trudeau said, in calling early polls. “The decisions your government makes right now will define the future your kids and grandkids will grow up in.’’