Political drama in Mississauga

Community News & Features May 25, 2018 at 4:20 pm

AngelyFrom Angely Pacis to Tanya Granic Allen to Natalia Kusendova

Tanya Granic Allen’s removal as a candidate due to her insensitive comments is just the latest of stunning events in the new riding of Mississauga Centre – and vindication for the campaign of Filipino-Canadian Candidate Rosemer Enverga.

Even before “The Main Event” of the General Election, the “opening acts” of the nomination elections in the provincial riding of Mississauga Centre have already served as a dramatic backdrop for political infighting amongst Filipino-Canadians and amongst other various ethnic and political groups and coalitions.

For the Filipino-Canadian community, Mississauga Centre was the stage of a drama turned to tragedy, as the riding was originally held by another Filipina candidate – Angely Pacis.

By Jose Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salamena

On May 5, 2018, just days before the Ontario election was called, Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Doug Ford announced via Twitter that Tanya Granic Allen was no longer an Ontario Progressive Conservative party candidate, due to homophobic comments made by Allen in 2015 captured on video and released by the Ontario Liberal Party. Allen was only nominated two weeks prior, beating out three other nominee aspirants. Instead, the candidate for the riding will be Natalia Kusendova, who placed 2nd in the April 21 nomination.

TANYA GRANIC ALLEN

TANYA GRANIC ALLEN

Tanya Granic Allen was the second nominee in the provincial riding of Mississauga Centre that was kicked out by the party. The first nominee was Filipina-Canadian Angely Pacis.

The removal of Tanya Granic Allen was bittersweet for those who served valiantly in the campaign of Filipina-Canadian Rosemer Enverga, who lost to Tanya. Rosemer’s campaign was the only campaign who openly criticized Allen’s derogatory remarks regarding the Muslim community and the LGBTQ community. While Allen’s ouster was vindication for Rosemer’s campaign, it left the Filipino-Canadian community with a lingering feeling of what-if? What if the Filipinos who supported Tanya Granic Allen instead listened to the questionable comments that were raised by their candidate in years prior, and instead have voted for Rosemer? Gerry Villareal, one of the main persons in Rosemer Enverga’s campaign, commented, “If not of the Filipino infightings; Rosemer could have been 2nd, and therefore the candidate now.”

Days after the general election was called, in response to Allen’s ouster from the Party, another Filipino who was involved in the Angely Pacis campaign and then supported Tanya Granic Allen, decided to run as an independent candidate in the same riding of Mississauga Centre. Pastor Alex Pacis confirmed via telephone that he has filed his candidacy with Elections Ontario on May 15. While running as an independent, he will run under a new party called “Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda Party.”

While the general election is the culminating event, the main fight, where the political drama reaches its crescendo, the small riding of Mississauga Centre has already served as the stage and as a dramatic backdrop and a hotbed for political infighting amongst Filipino-Canadians and amongst other various ethnic and political groups and coalitions. At various times, the nomination events have pitted Pakistani Canadians versus Indian Canadians in the Liberal nomination, Muslim Canadians versus social conservatives, social conservatives versus moderates, moderates versus populists, and, sadly, Filipino Canadians versus themselves.

NATALIA KUSENDOVA

NATALIA KUSENDOVA

For the Filipino-Canadian community, Mississauga Centre was the stage of a drama turned to tragedy.

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The narrative for the Filipino-Canadian community was supposed to be a story of triumph. Emboldened by the nomination win of Julius Tiangson in the Federal Conservative Party, Filipinos in the newly-created riding of Mississauga Centre embarked on a quest to find a Filipino-Canadian candidate that can win the nomination of a major Ontario political party. The Fil-Can for MPP Search Committee, the organization created for this aim, originally supported the candidacy of Angely Pacis. Angely Pacis then won the PC Party’s nomination in 2016, through the combined efforts of a unified and emboldened Filipino-Canadian community in the Greater Toronto Area.

In January 2018, the Ontario PC Party had to look for a new leader when its former leader Patrick Brown was removed from Party Leadership by the caucus due to allegations of misconduct. The party then held a leadership election, which was won by Doug Ford. Ford then promised to review the nominations of certain ridings that have been called into question by the party grassroots. On March 15, 2018, Doug Ford and the Ontario PC Party overturned the nominations of three ridings, one of which was Mississauga Centre, thereby terminating the candidacy of Angely Pacis.

Adding to the mystery and speculation on the reasoning behind this move is a mysterious video on social media. The Philippine Reporter’s own Ysh Cabana reported on March 23, 2018 that “a video has been circulating on social media of a heated exchange of words between [Angely] Pacis and her husband on one side and early supporters on the other side, escalating into online discussions of alleged misconduct from either side”. The same article also reported that reliable sources have confirmed the resignation of Pacis’ campaign manager months prior.

Regardless, the Fil-Can for MPP Search Committee, spearheaded by Clemente Cabillan and Gerry Villareal, once again embarked on the noble quest to find a Filipino-Canadian replacement to reclaim the nomination for the Filipino-Canadian community. Mr. Villareal commented via e-mail:

“…the 837,000 Filipinos in Canada or 350,000 in Ontario, still have no representations to the provincial and federal governments. Through demographics, we should have at least 9 MPs, 3 Senators and 3 MPPs in Ontario”
A community meeting was held on March 25, where three people were nominated: Dr. Coeliflor “Chelly” Silva, an accomplished doctor in Toronto’s West End, Mrs. Rosemer Enverga, the widow of the late Senator Tobias Enverga and Vice President of the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation, and Jose Victor “Jayvee” Salamena, the writer of this article. The community meeting concluded with the aspirants gracefully conceding that Rosemer Enverga, with her many years of community service, would be the most suitable candidate to represent the Filipino-Canadian community for Mississauga Centre.

ROSEMER ENVERGA

ROSEMER ENVERGA

Almost immediately, the Fil-Can community worked hard for Rosemer’s campaign. Day and night, through sunny days, rainy days, and the infamous April ice storm, many volunteers donated their time and effort to help sign up new members and supporters for Rosemer by canvassing and by phone-calling. With the help of Guy Camacho, the “architect” of the successful “Get out the vote” campaign for the Angely Pacis nomination, Rosemer’s campaign canvassed and traversed the riding to get the support of the Fil-Can community.

However, the odds were stacked high against the campaign to retain the nomination in the hands of the Fil-Can community. First and foremost was the challenge in facing Tanya Granic Allen, the president of the Parents as First Educators lobby and a former candidate for the 2018 Ontario PC Leadership. Tanya Granic Allen already had the advantage of name recognition due to her failed leadership campaign – but she also had an advantage in fundraising. Allen was also able to enamor the social conservative wing of the Ontario PC Party.

The re-opened nomination also prompted other ethnic communities in Mississauga Centre to put forward their candidates. Tim Iqbal, a Pakistani businessman who lost the federal Conservative Party nomination to Fil-Can Julius Tiangson, withdrew his candidacy and instead endorsed Tanya Granic Allen. The Muslim community rallied around businessman Qadeer Shah, and the Polish community put forward Natalia Kusendova. The Filipino community was also not united in this nomination fight as well. Many Filipinos who supported Angely instead threw their support to Tanya Granic Allen.

Even more upsetting were the personal attacks within the Filipino community that were heaped upon Mrs. Enverga. A certain newspaper in the Filipino community reported that as many as 300 Filipinos voted for Tanya Granic Allen, then haughtily remarked, “It is a cruel irony that one who has made a career of raising and crowning “queens” was herself openly and boisterously uncrowned, pulled down from heights of fantasy by her own kababayans.”
Tanya won the nomination on April 21 despite the many controversies swirling around her. While running for Party leadership, Allen received a subtle “endorsement” from Paul Fromm, who is alleged to be a white nationalist, an endorsement that Allen refused to acknowledge. Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area were troubled by her comments comparing women wearing burqas to “ninjas” and “bank robbers.”

However, when the Liberals released a video of Allen in 2015 making derogatory remarks about gay marriage, the Ontario PC Party decided that they have had enough. Tanya Granic Allen was then kicked out of the nomination.
Many social conservatives within the Filipino-Canadian community who supported Allen, as well as social conservatives in Ontario, were also displeased with the move by the Ontario PC Party. Allen’s main priority as a nominee was to change the Ontario sex-ed curriculum that was introduced by the governing Liberals in 2010 and in 2016, without the input of many various faith groups. With the possibility of Allen as an MPP or as a Cabinet Minister now gone, many social conservatives feel that they have lost a champion of their causes. This move also upsets social conservatives who feel that their views are being censored and their freedoms of speech and opinion being violated. Pastor Alex Pacis, a supporter of Allen, said that the social conservatives “lost the best voice we could have in Tanya.”

FILIPINO supporters of Tanya Granic Allen

FILIPINO supporters of Tanya Granic Allen

The Liberals nomination in the riding was also not without controversy either. The Liberal Party appointed South Asian businesswoman Bobbie Daid as their candidate for the riding of Mississauga Centre. In doing so, Kathleen Wynne superseded the nomination process in the riding, leaving the campaigns of Harinder Takhar and Shaqfat Ali in shock as well, as reported by news outlets in Mississauga. A reliable source within the Pakistani community in Mississauga has said that many in the Pakistani community were supporting Shaqfat Ali and were outraged by the appointment without a fair and democratic nomination. The source also mentioned that the Liberal voters in the riding were unhappy with the Liberal Party’s decision.

The campaign of Rosemer Enverga was the only campaign that directly confronted and criticized Tanya Granic Allen over her irresponsible comments. In campaign e-mails and flyers and campaign t-shirts, her campaign stressed the importance and principles of love, understanding, tolerance and acceptance. While Rosemer’s campaign did not win the nomination, those in the campaign can take solace that the removal of Allen due to her insensitive remarks was vindication of a campaign fought with the best intentions at heart.

However, for the Filipino-Canadian community at large, the drama that unfolded in Mississauga Centre was tragic. The hard work that the Filipino-Canadian community put towards the Angely Pacis campaign became undone by circumstances beyond their control. The valiant effort put up by the community towards the campaign for Rosemer Enverga was also likewise stifled by the uphill challenges that they faced. In the case of Rosemer Enverga’s campaign, had the Filipinos who voted for Allen voted instead for Enverga, would the Filipino community held onto Mississauga Centre? As a community, we will never know.

In the end, the nomination from a major political party that was successfully won by a Filipina candidate was lost. The Filipino-Canadian community now looks to York Centre, to the Liberals and the candidacy of Ramon Estaris to see if he can become the first Filipino-Canadian to sit for the Ontario Legislature.