By: Raymond Rajabalan
With two Canadian Tamils being elected in the recently concluded provincial election, the Tamil community in Ontario isjustifiably overjoyed by this remarkable feat‘‘Logan Kanapathi and Vijay Thanigasalam successfully contesting as Progressive Party candidates have boosted the confidence of our community” many Tamil voters told the writer.
Apart from this, two otherTamil candidates contesting intwo separate Scarborough electorates had garneredvery strong support and were on the verge of winning. However, all of a sudden in the days close to the election new allegations were levelled against them by their opponents. In the resulting confusion, one of the candidate had his majority significantly reduced while the other candidate lost by less than100 votes.
The fact that Tamilcandidates were able to gainsuch strong support among the various communities in theirconstituencies speaks volumes about their political maturity and determination.
Winners and Losers
In a democratic process,whether they are winners or losers all the candidates should be congratulated irrespective of their political leanings.
Taking into consideration of the performance of all Tamil candidates who took part in the June 7Tth Provincial elections,it is remarkable that allof them did their very best.
Markham-Thornhill goes PC, electing Logan Kanapathi
It was a PC victory in Markham-Thornhil riding, with Logan Kanapathi claiming a clear and early win in the hotly contested and relatively new riding.
Kanapathi has served as a city councillor in Markham and was first elected to that office in 2006, then won the 2010 and 2014 elections and was the first Tamil Canadian elected to political office in North America, according to his campaign website.
“Fixing 15 years of Liberal neglect and mismanagement will not happen overnight. But the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has a plan for the people to get Ontario back on track,” Kanapathi told a local newspaper, in the days leading up the election.
Kanapathi won with 18,943 votes or 50.5 per cent of the total vote. Liberal candidate Juanita Nathan, another Canadian Tamil candidate claimed 24 per cent and NDP candidate Cindy Hackelberg about 21 per cent, with all 42 polls reporting.
The York Region area riding is home to 99,075 people, as noted in 2016 census data and key election issues included public transit, child care, energy costs and car insurance.
The riding was redefined in time for the 2015 federal election, so there was no incumbent candidate for the provincial race.
Liberals won both the federal election and the 2017 by-election. However, in the provincial race the riding was projected to lean conservative, based on a data model by Barry Kay, an elections expert and associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Juanita Nathan who finished second in the pollsis a York Region District School board trustee representing Markham since 2010. She is also a community youth outreach worker, seniors support staff and a counsellor for victims of domestic abuse.
Juanita currently works with YOUTHLINK and Family Services of York Region and volunteers regularly with Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region Equity Council, and Markham Tamil Organization.
“This has been a Liberal riding for a long period of time, people are happy with Liberals,” Juanita told the media a fewdays prior to the election. However it soon became obvious that the blue wave sweeping across the province had turned the tide against her.
Battle between first-timers in Scarborough-Rouge Park ends with Vijay Thanigasalam winning
In the newly formed riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park, first-time candidates waged a fierce battle that ended with the Progressive Conservatives claiming victory.
Vijay Thanigasalam, a 29-year-old financial adviser, won the riding by 963 votes over the NDP’s Felicia Samuel, 40, a teacher and union leader.
“I’m very proud and I’m very honoured,” Thanigasalam told the media. “I want to thank Scarborough-Rouge Park constituents for believing in me. I will work tirelessly to be their voice at Queen’s Park.”
The son of factory and daycare workers, Thanigasalam grew up on the outskirts of the riding, around Kennedy and Eglinton Area. His family settled in the area in 2003, having fled Sri Lanka during its brutal civil war.
“Growing up in Scarborough, I know it’s been neglected for a long time,” he said. “A PC majority will bring a positive change to the area.”
Improving health care and transit was high on his campaign agenda.
“Our very own Centenary hospital has an overflowing number of hallway health care patients and an overcrowded emergency room,” Thanigasalam said. “That needs to be changed: our residents deserve to have quality health care.”
The riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park, created in 2015, includes parts of the electoral districts of Pickering-Scarborough East, Scarborough-Rouge River and Scarborough-Guildwood.
According to the 2016 Federalcensus, the riding has a population of 102,275, with the vast majority of residents in the 16-64 age bracket and most identifying as a visible minority. The area’s unemployment rate was 8.9 per cent at the time of the census, more than a percentage point higher than the Ontario average.
Liberal Party candidate (also a Tamil Canadian) Sumi Shan, 39, a tech entrepreneur, finished third with 20 per cent of the vote.
Liberal Mitzie Hunter holds Scarborough-Guildwood in tight race with Toronto police officer Roshan Nallaratnam
Liberal incumbent Mitzie Hunter won the tightest of races on June 7th, beating her Progressive Conservative opponent by just 81 votes in the Scarborough-Guildwood riding.The former Education minister fought off a strong challenge from Roshnan Nallaratnam, the Toronto police officer who is under internal police investigation after allegations that he threatened a constituent via email. Though he has claimed the allegation as fake it had resulted in him losing the election by less than 100 votes.
New Democrat candidate Tom Packwood also made a strong showing in the race, which was only decided in Hunter’s favour late Thursday night.
In a diverse riding that is pushing for better health care and public transit Scarborough-Guildwood has long been a comfortable home for Liberals.
But in 2018, the desire for political change meant the PC and NDP candidates had a shot at taking down the high-profile incumbent Hunter.
In her most recent cabinet post, Hunter served as Minister of advanced education and skills development in Kathleen Wynne’s government.
Before that she was the education Minister and associate Minister of finance. Hunter was first elected in a 2013 by-election, after long-time Liberal MPP Margarett Best retired.
In the days leading up to the election, Hunter predicted she’d hold on to her job because voters are “critical in how they look at candidates,” said and she hasdeep roots with people in her “beautiful riding.”
Tamil Canadians represented atall three levels of government in Canada
The fact that Canadian Tamils are now being represented at all three levels of governmentis a great achievement and there is every indication that the Tamil community is on the right track and is destined for greater success in the future.
- At the Federal Level
When RathikaSitsabaiesan waselected as NDP MPfor Scarborough – Rouge River,it was ahistoric achievement since shewas the first ever Sri LankanTamil in the entire world to be elected as a Member of Parliament.Rathika Sitsabaiesan represented this constituency in the House of Commons of Canada as a Member of Parliament between 2011 and 2015.
In 2016, Sitsabaiesan switched parties in order to seek the Ontario Liberal Party nomination for the vacant provincial Scarborough –Rouge River seat However another Canadian Tamil Piragal Thiru defeated Sitsabaiesan for the Liberal nomination on June 5, 2016.However Thiru lost to Raymomd Cho, the PC candidate in a very closely fought election.
“Gary” Anandasangaree is a Tamil Canadian lawyer, human rights activist and politician. Hecontested as a Liberal party candidate in the 2015 Federal Election and was elected to represent the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park in the House of Commons.
- At the Provincial Level
The election of Two Canadian Tamils – LoganKanapathi and Vijay Thanigasalam- inthe recent provincial elections is undoubtedly a remarkable feat. This is the very first time Sri Lankan Tamils have been elected in a provincial election.Once the party leaders find out the talents of these newly minted MPPs there is very possibility that more Tamil candidates mightbe nominated in future provincial polls.
- At the Municipal level
Neethan Shanmugarajah, commonly known as Neethan Shan is a Tamil Canadianyouth worker and politician. He was elected to Toronto City Council at the by-election held on February 13, 2017, becoming the first Tamil Canadian to serve on the city council.
Shan was elected councillor of the Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River riding in February’s byelection, just over a year after being elected as a Toronto District School Board trustee. Following the by election, Shan was also appointed as the city’s Youth Advocate.
The councillor will now be the representative for many thousands of newcomers from around the world who make Toronto their home each year.
“I am pleased to be in a position where I can promote inclusion and advocate for settlement and integration supports that are responsive to their needs,” Shan said in a written statement released after this appointment.
The future of aspiring Tamil politicians in Canada
Within the past 30 years many TamilCanadian candidates of Sri Lankan origin have participated at the provincial polls but most of them were able to gather only a very limited support.However within the past 10 years, many other candidates with considerable political maturity have been participating in the polls. Recently a new crop of highly educated young candidates have entered the field. As such,there is every indication that the future is very bright for them.
As everyone knows winning an election is not an overnight process. It involves a long term commitment, sincere dedication, great sacrifice and broad vision.Canada is a country which people from every nook and corner have chosen to call it as their home.As such any one hoping to be a successful politician must first earn their trust and respect of the people fromvarious communities because ultimately one has to serve such diverse communities with vast and varied cultural background. Judging by the progress made by Tamil Canadian candidates in the recent past, it appears that they are on the right track to make their presence felt more prominently in the future.