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SCARBOROUGH-ROUGE RIVER: Rathika Sitsabaiesan elected new MP

[MISC, Tuesday, 3 May 2011 20:01 3 Comments]

NDP candidate takes riding by large margin

 SCARBOROUGH-ROUGE RIVER: Rathika Sitsabaiesan elected new MP. Scarborough-Rouge River NDP candidate Rathika Sitsabaiesan celebrates her victory with her campaign manager Andrea Moffat and supporters Monday. (May 2, 2011)  Staff photo/DAN PEARCE  Liberal Derek Lee said he was quitting politics because the riding of Scarborough-Rouge River deserved a fresh face, and that’s what it got on Monday night.

It got New Democrat Rathika Sitsabaiesan, 29, a Tamil-Canadian community activist from Malvern making a historic breakthrough in what was supposed to be a safe Liberal seat.

"It’s the entire community coming together," she said Monday as she emerged from a crush of supporters after her victory was certain.

Lee, the riding’s MP since 1988, surprised many when the federal election was called by saying it was "time to press the refresh button" in the riding and announcing his retirement.

But Sitsabaiesan, a first-time candidate had been working for the University of Toronto’s student government, ran a strong campaign, one that ended with perhaps as many as 1,000 supporters crammed into a local school Sunday for a rally with NDP Leader Jack Layton.

"For 23 years it was all the same. And finally the people were fed up and wanted change and that’s what we’re delivering," Sitsabaiesan said after her victory over Conservative Marlene Gallyot and Liberal Rana Sarkar was certain. With 188 of 211 polls reporting, Sitsabaiesan had 41.1 per cent of the vote, Gallyot had 29.6 per cent and Sarkar had 27.1 per cent. Also running were George Singh for the Green Party and independent Mark Balack.

Sarkar, CEO of the Canada-India Business Council and a former constituency assistant for Lee was decisively beaten, but received the news stoically.

"The Canadian public has made some decisions," he said.

"It’s not the end of the party. It’s the beginning of something," said Sarkar, predicting a renewal that will bring the Liberal party back.

"I will be a part of the renewal and look forward to that."

Lee, also the only MP residents have had since the riding was created, had no problem winning previous elections in Scarborough-Rouge River, receiving more votes in 2008 than his four opponents combined. Voter turnout in the riding in 2008 was lowest in the city, at 47.4 per cent.

Lee said many voters "are loyal to their members and they stay loyal, and when he or she leaves, they’re free," he said. "They have the freedom not to follow forever."

Reflecting further, Lee said as crushing a blow this was to his Liberal party, the most significant part of the night is the removal of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec in favour of a federalist party, the NDP. "Jack Layton is the person who did it," he said.

Sitsabaiesan credited her win to an unprecedented coalition of young people, women, the elderly and others who turned out to support her.

Earlier, in a banquet hall beside her Sheppard Avenue headquarters, Syed Naqvi, a riding resident, predicted Sitsabaiesan would win before the first results were in.

Before the election, he always voted Liberal, he said, "but in this election, we saw a revolution" and Naqvi said he did his best to win over his family and neighbours to Sitsabaiesan and the NDP.

"She’s brilliant, she’s an outspoken person and she is brave," he said.

"Liberal and Conservative, they have almost the same policies. They support each other."

At a Markham Road sports bar where Sarkar’s supporters awaited results, Freddie Viera said he volunteered for Sarkar because he feared that, with Lee gone, people in the riding might fall away from the Liberals, helping to hand the Conservatives a majority. "I think it would be damaging the country," Viera said.

He didn’t, however, expect New Democrats to be able to take the riding. "It’s either Conservative or Liberal."

At another sports bar to the south near Markham Road earlier in the evening, Gallyot, a former immigration consultant who worked for a regional councillor in Markham, said she’d done her best. "We all put together a good campaign. We reached out to every community."

A mother of four, Gallyot said she was grateful for the support of her family during the campaign. "I’m a winner already, with the family I have."

Also running in the riding was Green candidate George Singh, an entrepreneur and student who has also run municipally, as well as an independent candidate, Mark Balack.

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3 Comments »

  • Robert said:

    well done done Rathika

  • Robert said:

    you will do the best for tamils peoples we like you forever and ever

  • Robert said:

    we thought no one help stop killing to tamils in sri lanka you will do it soonnn