October 1, 2021 - It was a hastily called federal election that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had hoped he could use to solidify his party’s hold on political power. And while the recent elections defeated his purpose (about 40 percent of eligible voters reportedly did not vote), there was a singular upside for Filipinos in Canada – a Liberal candidate won the riding of the Mississauga/Streetsville in the person of Rechie Valdez who just happens to be of Filipino heritage.
Valdez’s recent victory at the polls was a welcome relief from the long drought of political representation in the House of Commons after Dr. Rey Pagtakhan concluded in 2004 his 16 years of service as Member of Parliament, serving as cabinet members to two prime ministers: Jean Paul Chretien and Paul Martin.
Valdez was one out of the six Filipino Canadians that ran under various political parties in September.
The 2016 census noted that Canadians with Filipino heritage comprise more than two percent of the population. There are a total of 338 seats for Members of Parliaments and two percent of that, if Canadian Filipinos were to be proportionately represented in the federal government, would be at least six. It would have been serendipity had all six Canadian Filipino candidates won.
Sadly, even with the welcome win of Valdez, we are still sorely underrepresented in national politics.
But Valdez’s victory may very well be the inspiration that other like-minded Canadian Filipinos may need to become more aggressive in their pursuit of a political career in Canada. She is of a generation that young Canadian Filipinos can identify with.
The daughter of immigrant Filipinos, Valdez had no prior political experience. Born in Zambia in Central Africa and raised in Mississauga, she is a small business owner/creative entrepreneur who coached individuals, hosted conferences for professionals, and organized local gatherings for entrepreneurial women. Her path to the Parliament is one that any hard-working, resilient and community-minded Canadian Filipino can so easily and naturally take.
And why would we want Canadian Filipinos in politics? Our everyday lives are impacted greatly by decision-makers in government – whether at the local, provincial or federal level. Garbage pick-up, city road maintenance or water – think local government (cities, towns and regional districts). Public health, major infrastructures like bridges and highways – think provincial government. Services related to air (airports and runways) and water (oceans) – think federal government. Your mayor, councillors, MLAs, MPs all speak on your behalf.
In the provincial government, Mable Elmore is currently the lone Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing Vancouver/Kensington who is of Filipino heritage. In local government, a smattering of Canadian Filipinos hold council positions: Edwin Empinado of Kitimat, BC, Jocelyn Curteanu of Whitehorse, Yukon, Rowena Santos, and Lisa Abarquez-Bower of Brampton and Ajax, Ontario respectively, Rommel Silverio of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Mike Pagtakhan of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It is time that Filipinos in Canada not only demonstrate those commonly known Filipino values and traits of resilience, creativity and industriousness but also that of political leadership. Dr. Pagtakhan did that during his illustrious political career. Valdez is now embarking on that journey. Elmore and Canadian Filipino councillors are doing that. In October 2022, the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario will be holding their respective provincial and local elections. Alberta will hold its elections in 2023.
Will the Filipino community see a Canadian Filipino mayor and another MLA next year? We should, as there ought to be more Canadian Filipinos in all levels of politics in the years to come.
For the Canadian Filipino Net’s Editorial Board