Sitsabaiesan turns Grit for Balkissoon’s seat


Resigned Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon and defeated NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan flank former Trinidad and Tobago consul general Dr. Vidhya Gyan Tota-Maharaj at T&T independence celebrations. Gerald V. Paul photo. By Gerald V. Paul
Resigned Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon and defeated NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan flank former Trinidad and Tobago consul general Dr. Vidhya Gyan Tota-Maharaj at T&T independence celebrations. Gerald V. Paul photo.
By Gerald V. Paul

While former Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon plays hide-and-seek with the media, defeated NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan has announced she hopes to step in a fill his shoes for the Grits.

The first MP of Tamil heritage is seeking the provincial Scarborough-Rouge River seat in a byelection expected to be called within six months. A native of Jaffna, the capital of the northern province of Sri Lanka, she and her family moved to Canada when she was five.

The seat was vacated when Balkissoon suddenly stepped down without revealing why, with only a terse statement wishing him well from Premier Kathleen Wynne. He has since managed to avoid media interviews.

Sitsabaiesan, a popular personality while MPP within the Caribbean / Black community from appearances at Caribbean Carnival to numerous independence events, galas and community activities, said on her Facebook page: “Dear friends, I’ve always been a progressive – personally, politically and proudly. And I’ve always believed that being a principled progressive goes beyond partisanship.”

She continued, “That’s why this morning (April 23) I made a decision that I will be submitting my nomination papers to stand as the Ontario Liberal Party candidate for the byelection in Scarborough-Rouge River.

“I did not make this decision lightly or without careful consideration.”

The thirty-four -year-old, elected in 2011 in then-NDP leader Jack Layton’s Orange Wave, said earlier this year that Wynne passed “one of the most progressive policies we have ever seen in Canada, free post-secondary tuition for students from lower income families.

“Here in Scarborough-Rouge River, our community will benefit greatly from this ground-breaking commitment, one which will open up so many more opportunities for all Ontarians.”

The Carleton University bachelor of commerce grad said, “More than ever, I believe that education is the single most important factor in determining the quality of life here in Ontario. Education leads to employment and opportunity, equality and prosperity for all cannot exist without fair access to post-secondary education.

“Together with your support, we can bring a stronger voice to our progressive Liberal government at Queen’s Park and continue to fight for our vision of a brighter future,” she said.

Sitsabaiesan was defeated in the Oct. 19 federal election when the NDP was wiped out in Toronto. She came in third in the riding with 22% support.

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