Flor Marcelino: A decade and counting of a storied career in Manitoba politics

Flor Marcelino is on her third term as Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Manitoba.

After heading the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Manitoba for more than a year, Flor Marcelino recently passed on the baton to a new leader.

It marked the culmination of yet another chapter in the career of the Philippine-born politician, who came to Winnipeg with her family in 1982.

As an elected official, Marcelino’s track record has counted a number of breakthroughs that have elevated the status of visible minorities and women of colour in Canada.

 In 2007, Marcelino became the first ethnic minority woman to be elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Manitoba.

For Canadian Filipinos, her victory in the electoral district of Wellington in that year was significant. She was the first immigrant woman from the Philippines to be elected as MLA in Canada.

Marcelino went on to win a second term in the new electoral division of Logan in 2011.

By the time the 2016 provincial election came around, the Manitoba NDP had been weakened by internal dissensions, and suffered a collapse in the balloting in April of that year.

Even though Marcelino secured a third term as MLA for Logan, her party lost the election to the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, prompting then defeated Premier Brian Pallister to step down as provincial NDP leader.

On May 7, 2016, Marcelino was chosen as interim head of the Manitoba NDP, becoming the first woman leader of the party.

Faced with task of helping rebuild the NDP in the province, Marcelino declared in a CBC report, “This is a party that will keep on fighting for what we believe is right, for our values, for our social justice goals for everyone.”

Before entering Manitoba politics, Marcelino owned a small business. She was also editor of a local community paper, The Philippine Times. She likewise worked as a support staff member with the Red River College.

According to her official NDP profile, Marcelino served as Minister for Culture, Heritage, and Tourism, and Minister for Multiculturalism and Literacy between 2009 and 2016.

Her appointment to the Cabinet in 2009 was also another first. She was the first woman of colour to be named to Cabinet in the province.

On September 16, 2017, the New Democrats in Manitoba elected Wab Kinew, a rookie MLA and an Indigenous rights advocate.

“It's a new day for the NDP and it's a new day for Manitoba,” Kinew said in his acceptance speech.

It also signals a fresh episode in the political career of Marcelino, who was appointed by the new leader as the Manitoba NDP’s opposition critic for immigration and multiculturalism