Six aspire to become parliamentarians as federal election looms


Largest number of candidates


Teodoro Alcuitas

Editor, (PCN.Com)

They are a diverse group: two lawyers, a scientist, two businesspeople and a union worker.

Six Filipino-Canadians are putting their names to run in the next federal elections, predicted to happen anytime soon. This is the largest number of aspiring politicians to enter the federal race as others are also preparing for municipal elections in October.

Of the six, only three -Phil De Luna who is running under the Greens for Toronto- St. Paul’s,  Julius Tiangson (Conservative), for York Centre and Virginia Austria Bremner (Liberal) for Vancouver Kingsway had been acclaimed.

Paul Jonathan Saguil (Liberal, Brampton Centre), Elizabeth Quinto (Liberal, Kitchener South-Hespeler) and Naden Abenes (NDP, Vancouver Centre) have still to win nominations to officially represent their parties. Quinto has lost her bid in the nomination last June 23 while Abenes’ will be decided on August 4. Saguil’s will have the nomination on August 3.

This is the largest number of candidates aspiring for national office so far in Canada. Since the first parliamentarian, Liberal Dr. Rey Pagtakhan of Winnipeg, Manitoba ended his term ( 1988 -2004), no Filipino-Canadian has been elected to parliament.

Dr. Rey Pagtakhan of Winnipeg is the first to be elected Member of Parliament of Canada. Elected in 1988 (Liberal) he served until 2004.
Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr. of Ontario was the only Filipino-Canadian Senator. He was appointed in 2012 and died in 2017.

The first Filipino-Canadian senator, Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. was appointed (not elected) by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in September 2012 for the province of Ontario. He  could have been in office  to age 75 but unfortunately died suddenly on November 2017.

This year has also seen an upsurge of interest in the political process among Filipino-Canadians with the formation of a new political group.

The new grassroots group Filipino Canadian Political Association, advocates for a stronger voice in Parliament. It notes that despite Filipinos being one of the largest ethnic community, it  lacks representation in the federal scene since Pagtakhan left politics in 2004.

“If you want to represent Canadians of all groups, it is about breaking down those barriers for more marginalized communities that lack that representation,” said Grant Gonzales, co-founder of the newly-formed group.

In the last federal election in 2019, the group  analyzed 37 electoral districts and using 2016 census data, they found that  Filipinos could have made a difference in victory or defeat by a slight margin. Their analysis included Winnipeg’s eight ridings where Filipinos were predominant and played a significant factor in the elections. Winnipeg is of course the leading edge in political participation in Canada, electing the first provincial politician( the late Conrad Santos)and first federal politician, Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. Manitoba also is the first province to have a  Filipino-Canadian to lead a provincial party when the NDP’s  Flor Marcelino became interim-leader in 2016. Manitoba has currently two sitting Filipino-Canadian Members of the Legislative Assembly – NDP Malaya Marcelino and Conservative Jon Reyes. Reyes was just recently appointed to cabinet as Minister of Economic Development and Jobs.

Trudeau urges Filipinos

If one thinks Filipinos are not an emerging political force, just listen to what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during Philippine Heritage Month in June.

“When we decided to have Canada’s first-ever gender-balanced Cabinet, it was about making sure that voices got heard, and not just voices of women but incredibly diverse MPs and leaders in government.  And for me, making sure that our institutions and our corporations and our leaders reflect the diversity of Canada and look like Canada, is really, really, important,” Trudeau said.

“So it’s really, really important to me to get that full range of Canada’s diversity in government, in our institutions, and I have been working very, very hard in encouraging as often as I can […] we need strong Filipino-Canadians particularly to step up across the country and run for public office, and run for the Liberal Party, it’s something that I am very, very hopeful of,” he added.

According to Trudeau, leaving decision-making and other problem-solving processes to a group whose members have a similar profile would probably result in solutions that would be too predictable.

Trudeau said that it has been a hallmark of his term — to encourage different communities in Canada to join government so that decision-making would take on a broader perspective.



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