MPP Jill Andrew ready to work with Black MPPs across the floor

By Lincoln DePradine

Jill Andrew

An Ontario opposition Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) has expressed willingness to work with the majority Conservative government, including under a “tri-party Black Caucus banner’’, in the “best interest’’ of the community.

“I look forward to working with anyone in the chamber who is putting forth good ideas and legislation that translate into better life outcomes for Ontarians, and this includes every single Black person living in Ontario,’’ said MPP Dr Jill Andrew.

She also has committed to “fight hard’’ to ensure accountability from Premier Doug Ford’s government, which was reelected June 2 with a majority of 83 seats in the 124-seat chamber at Queen’s Park.

The New Democratic Party – the Official Opposition – won 31 seats, including that of Andrew, who was reelected MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s.

Andrew first captured the riding in 2018. And, together with four other victorious NDP MPPs – Dr Laura Mae Lindo, Dr Rima Berns-McGown, Faisal Hassan and Kevin Yarde – formed a Black Caucus of the party.

Lindo and Andrew are the only two from the Caucus returning to the Ontario legislature as parliamentarians. Other current Black MPPs – winners last Thursday – are Mitzie Hunter of the Liberal Party and Progressive Conservative (PC) newcomers David Smith, Patrice Barnes and Charmaine Williams.

“I would welcome the opportunity to work with Black members from the PC Caucus under a ‘tri-party Black Caucus banner’ or, as individual members and would hold them to the same expectation I would Ford’s non-Black caucus members.  Black folks disproportionately experienced the impact of COVID-19; racism in schools and the workplace; the impact of an unaffordable housing market; and, the economic impact of a living wage that is simply way too low and hasn’t kept up with inflation, not to mention the cost of food for too many workers,’’ Andrew told The Caribbean Camera.

“If PC Black members are interested in helping Black people by putting forth bills that actually help our community, I’m eager to work with them.’’

Although, “there is a place for partisanship in politics’’, said Andrew, “the best approach for any MPP is one of collaboration’’, especially with Ontario facing “significant crises’’ such as homelessness; ensuring protection of workers’ rights; saving Black businesses and supporting entrepreneurs; addressing anti-Black racism in the education system; and creating access to equitable healthcare for people with sickle cell disease and other illnesses.

The list of other challenging issues, according to Andrew, includes earnings and working conditions for Black artists and gig economy workers; Black home and community care personal support workers; and part-time essential workers employed in the long-term care sector.

“In my community, we have seen the deadly effects of violence. We’ve also seen the effects of an often biased justice system and policing system that must be held accountable for its own systemic, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,’’ said Andrew. “We have a lot of work to do. We must work together for the best interest of our community members,’’ she added.

“In some cases, this may look like supporting legislation put forth by a member of another party, simply because it’s good legislation. In other cases, a collaborative approach for me may mean us – NDP as Official Opposition –putting forth amendments and feedback to government bills in committee or on the floor of the chambers during debates, for instance, with the hope that the Ford government will leave their ego at the door and listen critically to ours and the feedback of our community members and folks across Ontario; not just their buddies like developers, for-profit long-term care operators and proponents of privatized education and its services for example.’’

An eagerness to cooperate with the government must be accompanied by a different approach by the Ford administration in how it legislates and works across party lines at Queen’s Park, Andrew said.

“Otherwise, it will be another four heartbreaking years and the folks most impacted by policies created without their input, without elected MPPs confronting how these policies could – and will negatively impact lives – will be Black folks,’’ Andrew said.

“The government’s blatant ignoring of the consequences of its decision to ignore and strike down our NDP legislation calling for paid sick days, or their unwillingness to repeal Bill 124 – an anti-worker piece of legislation – are key examples of non-collaboration and we are still seeing the effects today. This term must be different,’’ she emphasized.