One-On-One with NDP Filipino-Canadian Candidate Nerissa Cariño

Community News & Features Jun 1, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Nerissa Cariño, Pickering-Uxbridge

Nerissa Cariño, Pickering-Uxbridge

The Filipino-Canadian community in the GTA is closely watching the candidacy of Nerissa Cariño, the NDP Candidate for Pickering-Uxbridge, and hoping that she can make history by becoming the first Filipina-Canadian to sit as an MPP in the Ontario Legislature.

By Jose Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salameña

The Filipino-Canadian community is excited to see not one, but two Filipino-Canadian candidates from the three major political parties in Ontario. Nerissa Cariño originally ran as an NDP candidate in 2011, and is once again a candidate of the NDP in the 2018 elections. Nerissa, a hardworking entrepreneur, volunteer, college professor and mother of four, has been active in the Durham community for many years before foraying into politics.

With the NDP now effectively tied with the PCs in the polls and a strong showing expected for the NDP on June 7, there is excitement as well within the NDP camp at the prospect of forming a government. An expected “orange wave” is expected to propel many NDP candidates to electoral victories in their ridings, and the Fil-Can community is excited at the prospect of Nerissa Cariño riding the “orange wave” into victory and into history as the first Filipina-Canadian MPP in the Ontario Legislature.

Cariño is continuing a strong tradition of Filipino-Canadian NDP Candidates in Canada. If she wins, she will join Conrad Santos, the first Filipino-Canadian elected in Canada, who served as an NDP MLA in the Manitoba Legislature, Flor Marcelino, another Fil-Can MLA who served as interim leader for the Manitoba NDP, and Mable Elmore, the first Fil-Can MLA in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, as elected Filipino-Canadian NDP politicians.

Here’s the interview with Nerissa Cariño, with questions in bold.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and you and your family’s immigration story? When did you and your family move to Canada?

Both my parents immigrated to Canada in 1974. My grandfathers first came to Ontario alone, to check things out. They both saw amazing opportunities for their families in Toronto – and decided to start preparing for the arrival of the rest of their family.

My parents met a few years later, and were married in March of 1977. I was born in Toronto 9 months later on December 27, 1977.

How did you become politically involved?

I have always been an advocate for social justice and human rights. In 2009, I did some work on raising awareness on violence against women and children – which led to being awarded with the Durham Region Peace Medallion. This led to the opportunity to run in the 2011 provincial election. I don’t really see myself as a politician per sé, more of an advocate for the people.

Why the NDP? What political convictions do you have that align with the NDP? What characteristics and principles of the Ontario NDP personally appeal to you?

The question is, why not the NDP?  My personal values, principles and beliefs are in direct alignment with the NDP. There is no question there. Putting people first, at the heart of every decision, is what we desperately need today – and going forward.

Filipinos in Canada and the NDP have a special bond. The Manitoba NDP were the first to successfully run a Filipina-Canadian candidate in their Legislature. The BC NDP also had a Filipina-Canadian in their Provincial Legislature. What is it about the NDP that is special and different to the Liberals and the Conservative parties that has allowed them to appeal strongly to the Filipino-Canadian community?

Of course, I can’t speak for every candidate, because there are Filipino-Canadian candidates in every party. One chooses to run because they believe in what the party stands for. However, I do think that innate Filipino characteristics are more in alignment with characteristics of the NDP. If you google the characteristics of Filipino people, you will find, amongst others, respect, helpfulness, strong work ethic and love and caring. And actually, love and caring is the definition of Cariño. I think these qualities are lacking in government – and it is time to put them in to work at Queen’s Park.

With the polls showing a Liberal collapse, which puts every Liberal candidate at risk, and with the PCs not having a Filipino-Canadian candidate, and with the Orange Wave now showing in the polls, you have a very good chance at becoming the first Filipino-Canadian Ontario MPP. How would you feel if you were the first in making history?

Right now, I am very focused at the task at hand – which is to make sure that people understand they have a solid choice in the NDP. I am taking it day by day and I don’t want to jump ahead of myself. But of course, it would be an incredible honour to be the first Filipino-Canadian MPP.

You ran a valiant campaign in Scarbourough-East in 2011. What have you learned in your first run that will help you in your current run? What’s different about this riding and this election that will hopefully propel you into a win in the riding?

Thank you for the compliment! 2011 was my rookie and break in year. I have learned and am still learning to not take things personally. I constantly remind myself why I am doing this – that it isn’t for me, but for all of us. The difference in riding is size and demographics. With the riding extending north, there are now rural issues and so much more land to cover. I do hope that being the only local candidate, who lives and understands the issues will give me the edge. I also believe that our solid platform is one that everyone can count on.

What issues will you champion and put forth to meet the needs and address the concerns of the Fil-Can community?

I will continue the work with Bill 181 (The Filipino Heritage Month Bill introduced by NDP MPP Peter Tabuns) – to acknowledge Ontario’s Filipino people and the contributions that we have made into this great province. I also want to address issues revolving around newcomers and foreign workers. There also is a bigger picture, making life in itself more affordable – with childcare, education and hydro. Putting an end to privatizing public services and providing accessible pharmacare and dental care. This is how you meet the needs, not only of a specific community, but for everyone!

With a potential NDP government in Queen’s Park, in what ways will an NDP government be beneficial to the Filipino-Canadian community?

An NDP government in Queen’s Park will not only benefit the Filipino-Canadian community, but all communities – as we are seeing the middle class shrink, the rich getting richer, and life is simply not affordable. The NDP government is committed to giving everyone the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

The NDP was the first political party in Queen’s Park to introduce a Filipino Heritage Month Bill (Bill 181) in 2017. If elected, will you sponsor and re-introduce the Filipino Heritage Month bill?

Yes, I see the importance in recognizing the almost 340,000 Filipino people who help make up Ontario’s population, and paying respect to Filipino culture and heritage.

Any closing statements you would like to say to speak directly to the Filipino-Canadian community?

As an advocate for families, an entrepreneur, an employer, a college professor and a mother of four children, I believe I have a solid understanding of the struggles faced by everyday people. Struggles that can be alleviated by redistributing the way we spend our money – to benefit all, rather than a few. I am running not for me, but for everyone – for our children, especially, because they deserve better. They deserve an Ontario that is fair and just – with equal opportunity to succeed.

I hope to have your support on June 7th! We can do this together! Thank you.


Mabuhay, Nerissa! The Filipino-Canadian community in Ontario and across Canada will keep an avid eye in the riding of Pickering-Uxbridge on June 7 in the hopes of finally having a Fil-Can MPP in Queen’s Park to give representation to the 340,000 Filipinos in Ontario. Good luck on June 7!