By Lincoln DePradine
When the Legislative Assembly of Ontario next meets in session, the composition of parliament will include six MPPs of African descent representing the province’s three main political parties.
A full 50 percent of the six are members of the Progressive Conservative Party, which was reelected to government in the June 2 provincial polls.
The successful Conservatives are Charmaine Williams, MPP for Brampton Centre; Patrice Barnes, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ajax; and David Smith, representing Scarborough Centre.
“I believe in the premier and his statements,’’ Smith, a former school board trustee, told supporters in an election night speech. “My brothers and sisters who have always shown kindness to me, I’m glad I’m here to work with them.’’
Barnes, a school trustee and cultural organizer, immigrated to Canada from Jamaica at 18. Before the election, she promised if she received the opportunity to serve as an MPP, she’ll “be a strong advocate and voice at Queen’s Park for the residents of Ajax’’.
As Ajax and the Durham Region grow, said Barnes, “we need to continue building the necessary infrastructure to improve gridlock and keep our community healthy. The people of Ajax deserve a representative who can get this done.’’
Barnes, Williams and Smith’s colleagues in the 124-seat legislature include the Liberal Party’s Mitzie Hunter, New Democrats Dr Laura Mae Lindo and Dr Jill Andrew.
Jamaican-Canadian Hunter was reelected in Scarborough-Guildwood, a riding she’s been representing since 2013. Last Thursday, she defeated her closest rival, Grenada-born business entrepreneur Alicia Vianga, who ran on a Conservative ticket.
Hunter received 46.3 percent of ballots cast, the equivalent of 13,404 votes. Vianga was at 31.5 percent, with 9,124 votes.
Lindo and Andrew were part of a five-member NDP Black Caucus that was founded following the 2018 provincial election.
Caucus members Dr Rima Berns-McGown did not seek reelection in Beaches-East York and Faisal Hassan lost his York South-Weston riding to newcomer Michael Ford, nephew of Premier Doug Ford.
Kevin Yarde, the fifth member of the NDP Black Caucus, was challenged in a controversial Brampton North riding association pre-election nomination meeting. The riding association selected businessman Sandeep Singh as NDP candidate and he lost to PC Graham McGregor.
The Conservatives, including the premier who retained his Etobicoke North riding, easily romped to victory in a low voter turnout election. They captured 83 seats; up from the 76 at the 2018 polls.
Two of the three leaders of the other parties won their seats last Thursday. NDP leader Andrea Horwath was reelected as MPP for Hamilton Centre; and the New Democrats, who picked up 31 seats, are returning as the Official Opposition at Queen’s Park.
Another dismal Liberal outing of just eight wins left them without official party status in the legislature, and beginning a search for a new leader.
Steven Del Duca, the Liberal Party leader and premier-hopeful, failed in an attempt to win his home riding of Vaughan–Woodbridge. He immediately announced he was resigning as party leader.
The NDP, too, will have to find a new leader, as Horwath is stepping down.
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party, was re-elected in his riding of Guelph.
Ford, in the 29-day campaign, promised heavy investment in infrastructure building if reelected, and secured the backing of some private sector trade unions, while also recruiting ethnic minority candidates such as Smith, Williams and Barnes.
“There was a time not long ago when some of the same people who are with us now couldn’t see a home for themselves in this party. It wasn’t easy. We had to admit our mistakes. We had to build back confidence. And that journey, it’s not over,’’ Ford said in celebrating his party’s victory.
“Whether you work on the assembly line and voted NDP your entire life; or, cast your last ballot for the federal Liberals, I want you to know that as long as I’m here, there’s room for you in this party.’’
Like some other successful candidates – such as City of Toronto’s Michael Ford, Mary-Margaret McMahon and Kristyn Wong-Tam – Charmaine Williams is transitioning from municipal to provincial politics. In 2018, Williams became the first Black woman elected to Brampton City Council.
“I know firsthand the challenges that Brampton residents face and understand the need to build a better Brampton for all families, seniors and small business owners,” Williams said, after the PC Party announced her as their flagbearer for Brampton Centre. “I want to join Premier Ford and the Progressive Conservative Caucus in government at Queen’s Park to bring the key issues that matter to the region to the provincial agenda.’’