Applause and cheers erupted from the crowd at Liberal candidate Bas Balkissoon’s campaign office last night when it was announced he was re-elected as the MPP for provincial riding Scarborough-Rouge River.
Balkissoon was the incumbent for his riding and won this election by over 2,000 votes over NDP candidate Neethan Shan. In the previous election, Balkissoon had won by a landslide of nearly 17,000 votes.
“We always expected a close race because of what happened here in the riding during the federal election,” said Balkissoon.
During the past federal election, the Scarborough Rouge River riding had three new candidates running due to the retiring of the incumbent. It was a Liberal riding for 20 years under MP Derek Lee, but it shifted to the NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaiesan, who is the first Tamil MP of the riding. The Liberal party came in third place.
“Going into this campaign, I have to say I had a lot of reservations,” Balkissoon said, as he addressed his crowd of supporters at the end of the night.
The Scarborough-Rouge River riding was split between Balkissoon and Shan, who had strong support from the Tamil community.
“I’ve always looked at the community as a community,” Balkissoon said to the crowd. “And unfortunately I have to say to you I was a little disappointed at the beginning. … I had a young lady working with us prior to September … and she had to leave the campaign without an explanation. Her mom came in and said, ‘I cannot let her come back.’ And the young lady was in tears.”
“[Shan’s party] were telling their people ‘if you are a Tamil person, you have no choice but to vote for the Tamil candidate [Shan],” said Liberal supporter Viresh Mathur, a long-time Scarborough resident.
Other setbacks in Balkissoon’s campaign included harassment from other parties.
“I actually had somebody tie a rope on my driveway so I could drive into it at the end of the night,” he said.
“[This election] was a challenge compared to past elections where it was much easier,” said campaign manager Mohan Bissoondial.
With the win, Balkissoon’s top priorities in his ward include public access to affordable healthcare, encouraging youth employment and encouraging more youth to graduate high school.
He also emphasizes the importance of community.
“We are a diverse community, but we are a community that is united,” he said to in a speech to the crowd.