Celina Caesar-Chavannes: Why the former Liberal MP is throwing her support behind Conservative candidate
Published Monday, September 13, 2021 11:54AM EDT Last Updated Monday, September 13, 2021 11:54AM EDT
WHITBY, ONT. -- I was asked this week to write about my decision to support my local Conservative candidate, Maleeha Shahid. And while I feel that it is not necessary to explain it, anymore than I need to explain why I went to Catholic Church or why I had an abortion or why I had chicken instead of beef for dinner, I will acquiesce. I do so because we should be able to talk about politics, especially at a time when our country needs leadership.
So let me address a few things. I will vote for Maleeha because I know her. I know that she has had to experience the same sorts of challenges I have, and I know that she will represent my voice in Ottawa as best she can. She is a fighter and I respect that. Does this mean that I am absolving the Conservatives from their records on human rights, racial justice or climate change?
Just the same as me voting for Ryan Turnbull in the last election did not absolve the Liberals for breaking promises during their majority. The two parties are like six eggs and half a dozen. We have given the six eggs, six years to half step. I am trying the half dozen. I will continue to hold leaders to account and criticize their inappropriate actions, policies and rhetoric, as I have done many times, for different leaders, in the past.
But why, you ask? Why would I ever give the Conservatives space, even once in my life? I respect the question. After all, I did say that I am a Liberal, and I will always be a Liberal at heart. But I have heard, and most importantly been witness to, the “actions” that accompany the Liberal platitudes and rhetoric, and truly believe that this inaction, accompanied with bad behaviour, should not be considered the norm for Canadians. We deserve, and therefore, should demand, better. And better is always possible.
I usually do not “read the comments,” but I read one yesterday that alluded to the fact that my decision went against the interest of Black communities.
So let’s start with the laundry list of investments in Black communities that the Liberals shout about every chance they get. They have be plagued with issues and not leveraged to create sustainable impact. Do you remember when Employment and Social Development Canada launched the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative earlier this year and organizations like Black Lives Matter Toronto and Operation Black Vote, were not funded because they were not “Black enough”? I do.
What about the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund? A contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars that was given to an organization in the Prime Minister’s riding without a request for proposals to solicit qualified contractors, has been described as “hard to access” and “asks invasive questions about applicants' sexuality.” Lastly, when I think about the fact that close to 70% of those involved in the Black Class Action lawsuit, are Black women, who have worked decades in the Canadian Public Service, without receiving a promotion, while being bullied, harassed and subjected to racist and sexist behaviour, knowing full well that the government has done nothing, for months on this file, is not leadership I am interested in.
Additionally, the $2.5 million invested to “advance gender equity for Black women and girls in Canada” is inadequate. If Black women and girls are at a greater risk of violence, especially during this pandemic, why give groups of organizations less money than you gave Equal Voice - one organization - in 2018, when they were awarded over $3 million? I will not go into the details of the 2015 promise to repeal mandatory minimum sentences or public demand for expungement for cannabis records of communities that have been subject to continuous over surveillance. The Liberals' record, or half-baked record, speaks for itself on that. If Black Lives Mattered at all to the Liberals, not only would it have come up in the debates, it would be evident in their action?
But hey, enough about the Black stuff, Celina? Right? Clearly that was not important. If we cannot get a Liberal leader to stand clearly against Bill C-21, do we honestly expect him to talk about Black lives? So, let’s talk about some other issues were rhetoric did not align with action. Boiled water advisories ending in 2021. 2015 being the last first past the post election. And my favourite - “because it is 2015”. It turns out, that “because it is 2015” only applied to some.
As time went on, I noticed that it did not apply to me, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Dr. Jane Philpott, Eva Nassif or Leona Alleslev. Because it is 2015 only applied when it was convenient, but got tossed to the side when women challenge the status quo, and dare I say, stand up for themselves. #BelieveHer is avant garde in a sound bite, but not so important when you can easily say that we “experience things differently.”
While some may believe that voting for Shahid, is a vote against my community’s interest, I have to ask whether a vote for Ryan Turnbull is any better? And yes, I know that I could vote NDP. If Trish McAuliffe or Niki Lundquist were running, I could have been wearing orange on Sunday. I voted for Niki in the past and I would certainly vote for her again.
The point is, the public announcement of my vote, has started a conversation for those who are thinking about doing something differently. For those not interested in rewarding the bad behaviour of a Liberal leader, simply because they have always voted Liberal, but want look at their own local candidates and make a decision about who will serve their community best. If that is a Liberal, fair enough, but if it is someone else, there is nothing wrong with that!
Former member of Parliament Celina Caesar-Chavannes quit the Liberal caucus in 2019 to represent her Whitby, Ont. riding as an independent. She's a senior adviser and adjunct lecturer at Queen’s University.