Partisan politicking puts Filipino Heritage Month bills in legislative limbo

Community News & Features May 11, 2018 at 3:36 pm
Peter Tabuns - introduced Bill 181

Peter Tabuns – introduced Bill 181

ll three of the major political parties in the Ontario Legislature have tabled their own versions of the Filipino Heritage Month Act, and all three have been struck down by opposing parties, indicating that the Parties are aware of the collective voting strength of the Fil-Can community and are vying for “ownership” of the bill in the eve of the General Election in Ontario

By Jose Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salamena

Since November 2017, all three major Ontario political parties (the Ontario Liberal Party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the New Democratic Party of Ontario) have each introduced Private Member’s Bills to have the month of June proclaimed as “Filipino Heritage Month.” Each of the bills have been struck down by opposing parties, as the Parties are wrangling for “ownership” of the bills in the eve of the Ontario General Election in June.

While partisanship in Queen’s Park is nothing new, the political maneuverings by the Liberals, the Conservatives, and the NDP suggest that the Parties are actively courting and are aware of the voting power that the Fil-Can community now wields in Ontario’s provincial politics.

Following the lead of the Toronto City Council, which designated June as Filipino Heritage Month on November 8, 2017, NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, representing the riding of Toronto-Danforth (which has a sizeable Filipino community), introduced Bill 181. The bill was not pursued further by the governing Liberal party.

Raymond Cho - introduced Bill 185

Raymond Cho – introduced Bill 185

In December 2017, following the untimely death of Senator Jun Enverga, PC MPP Raymond Cho, representing the riding of Scarborough – Rouge River (which entails part of the Toronto community of Agincourt, and a riding that is almost 40% of Asian ethnicities, of which 8% are Filipino, according to the 2011 Census) took the opportunity to honor his close friend and colleague in Federal Parliament by requesting a moment of silence and introducing Bill 185 to honor Sen Enverga’s legacy, with the first reading on December 5, 2017. While the speaker of the Legislative Assembly allowed for a moment of silence for the late Senator, the governing Liberal party again did not pursue the new bill further.

The Liberal Party then proceeded to introduce their own Private Member’s Bill for Filipino Heritage Month, Bill 189, introduced by Liberal MPP Mike Colle, representing the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence (the riding of the southern parts of Bathurst and Dufferin streets, just south of Bathurst and Wilson, and a riding with an active and vibrant Filipino community). The language of Bill 189 closely mirrors the language of Bill 181 and Bill 185 introduced earlier. The bill’s first reading was on December 12, 2017, days before the Legislature Holiday Break. The bill was not pursued further due to the prorogation of the Ontario Legislature on March 2018.

Mike Colle - introduced Bill 189 and Bill 10

Mike Colle – introduced Bill 189 and Bill 10

Liberal MPP Mike Colle re-introduced the Filipino Heritage Month bill as Private Member’s Bill 10, with the first reading on March 20, 2018. The bill passed through the second reading, but the third reading was blocked by the Ontario PC Party.

The partisan politicking and jockeying was reflected in the Filipino-Canadian community as well. Filipinos aligned with or sympathetic to the Ontario Liberals criticized the move by the Ontario PC Party, but Filipinos aligned with or sympathetic to the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the Ontario NDP pointed out that the governing Liberals had three private member bills with similar wordings introduced, but did not pursue the bills further until the eve of the election.

With the demise of Bill 10, the Filipino Heritage Month Act will have to wait until after Ontario’s general election, and will have to wait for an MPP to sponsor and introduce the bill in the next session of Provincial Legislature. Ontario already recognizes Tamil Heritage Month in January, Black History Month in February, Bangladeshi Heritage Month and Irish Heritage Day in March, Sikh Heritage Month in April, Asian, Duth, Jewish, and South Asian Heritages Month in May, Italian and Portugese Heritages Month in June, Ukrainian Heritage Day in September, Hispanic Heritage Month in October, and Albanian Heritage Month in November.