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(BlogTO, Canada) Eritrean-Canadian candidate might be the most exciting candidate for Toronto mayor

Posted by: Biniam Tekle

Date: Thursday, 11 October 2018



This might be the most exciting candidate for Toronto mayor

The election for mayor of Toronto is just two weeks away, and media coverage of the race's top contenders is ramping up. 

As the debates rage on, two out of 35 candidates vying for a spot at the helm of the city have all but monopolized the press: incumbent mayor John Tory, naturally, and his supposed main opponent, former City of Toronto chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat

Since Keesmaat's entry into the race against her former boss, the Johnny vs. Jenny rivalry has been the major through-line of the election so far. One could almost be led to believe the whole thing is a two-horse race. 

But just beyond the limelight, another candidate is slowly gaining traction with a bold platform and, arguably, some of the best debate performances so far.  

Saron Gebresellassi, a 31-year-old lawyer, has been making some impressive jabs at Tory and Keesmaat, giving both longtime political heavyweights a run for their money at the debate hosted by Global News.

Aside from being the youngest candidate by at least a decade or two to participate in the televised debates, the Eritrean-Canadian activist-turned-lawyer is the only woman of colour in the core group of candidates. 

As a young lawyer, the Ryerson grad has taken on some very high-profile civil rights cases representing women, including suing Starbucks for $1 million, and fighting a maternity-leave dismissal.   

Having moved to Toronto from Eritrea in 1989 and grown up in York Square community housing by Jane and Lawrence, Gebresellassi's platform is taking a heavy stance on policing and affordable housing.  

Gebresellassi has put the heat on Keesmaat and Tory on the issue, and says if elected, she'll declare a state of emergency for the issue, calling for 20,000 new affordable housing units.  

She's also proposing to make public transit completely free for everyone: something that neither Keesmaat nor Tory have even mentioned working toward, let alone implementing.  

She did Tweet that she'd be a little late to the Mayoral Transit Debate in Scarborough last month, but to be fair, she was taking the TTC there. 

Aside from knowing sign language—which not many candidates do—Gebresellassi also plays the flute, which is pretty cool too.

 

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Voice of #Eritrea December 1, 2018 broadcast