Jamaican candidates gear up for upcoming Ontario election
A slew of candidates of Jamaican heritage are seeking election in the upcoming polls for Ontario. They are: New Democratic Party MPP Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre); Charmaine Williams (Brampton Centre) and Mark Saunders (Don Valley West) for the Progressive Conservative Party; and MPP Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood) and Granville Anderson (Durham) for the Liberal Party.
Two first-timers, Andria Barrett, the Ontario New Democratic Party candidate for Brampton South; and Jamaal Blackwood, for the Green Party of Ontario, are looking to make an impact by addressing pressing social issues in their communities.
Barrett, whose parents are Jamaican – her mother from Clarendon and her father, St Mary – launched her campaign to win a seat in the June 2 Ontario election at a black-owned restaurant in the city’s downtown recently.
She says chief among the issues for residents are healthcare, senior care and long-term care, noting that the city has over 700,000 residents but only one hospital.
“We are underfunded when it comes to our healthcare and we need more hospitals. The nurses and healthcare professionals, they do the best they can but they are just over capacity,” said Barrett.
She says it is important, too, that constituents ‘see people who look like them – a female or a black woman who is trying to represent them’.
She says the NDP has a Black Caucus with members from different parts of the diaspora and is the first provincial-led party to do so.
Pointing to the reform of the Little Jamaica district, as an example, she says MPP Jill Andrew is working to ensure that the province protects that space and the business owners there. The party also had a private member’s bill to address anti-black racism in the province.
Blackwood, whose parents are from St Elizabeth and Manchester, will be pressing for more resources to be allocated to address key issues in Brampton.
“I am running for office because of the change I want to see. There are a tremendous number of issues that are currently taking place within different communities of Brampton and families are forced to deal with these issues due to lack of support from their government,” he said.
Among these are the situation for struggling breadwinners who want a better life for their families, and youth who need more resources to succeed within the education system. Action on noise pollution, bad air quality and school safety are also major concerns for his constituents, said Blackwood.
He is encouraged, however, by a growing willingness among persons within the black community to join the fight for change.
“It is important to encourage even the youth to rise to the cause and make sure they have the support to do so,” he said.
He is inspired by his parents’ own struggle to thrive as immigrants and working-class community members. He said his parents taught him to face challenges head on, and to always find solutions.
“Things were not easy for them growing up and coming to Canada and that is something I always remember when doing anything,” he emphasised.