Filipino-Canadians divided over Mable Elmore-Gabby Kalaw battle in Vancouver-Kensington
A showdown between two Filipino-Canadian politicians—and a clash of views within the Filipino community about ethnicity in politics—is on in one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
Gabby Kalaw was acclaimed at a rousing nomination event on Wednesday evening (November 7) as the candidate of the B.C. Liberal Party in Vancouver-Kensington.
Kalaw will be running in next year’s provincial election against incumbent NDP MLA Mable Elmore, the first politician of Filipino ancestry to be elected a member of the B.C. legislative assembly.
As the Straight previously reported, Kalaw’s challenge against Elmore is seen by some members of the community as a form of betrayal because of their common ethnicity.
Former UBC professor Aprodicio Laquian feels “very strongly” opposed to Kalaw’s decision to run.
“From the point of view of the Filipino community, that doesn’t look very good that another Filipino is targeting a riding where a Filipino is already an incumbent,” the Filipino-Canadian author said in a phone interview last month after the Straight ran a story about Kalaw’s plan.
Asked if he has that point of view, Laquian responded: “I do. It is really another manifestation of our lack of support for each other. On one hand, we should vote as individuals, without preferences and so on. At the same time, we cannot really forget that we belong to one ethnic group. That is something that is part of our being.”
David Decolongon, a Filipino-Canadian political-science student at UBC, attended Kalaw’s nomination at the Kensington Community Centre, which attracted people from a variety of ethnic groups.
Decolongon believes that having two Filipino-Canadians compete for the same constituency is “great”.
According to him, voters share some common values and those values can be reflected by candidates no matter what their ethnicity is. “It doesn’t have to be a Filipino,” Decolongon told the Straight.
The young student explained why he wants to get involved in Kalaw’s campaign. “I’ve been looking for ways to get involved with the B.C. Liberals because I’ve always believed in B.C. Liberal values,” Decolongon said. “It’s why my family prospered. My mom owns a travel agency in the neighbourhood. If it wasn’t for an environment where business can prosper, people like my mom would haven’t been successful.”
Associate UBC professor Leonora Angeles was asked by the Straight in a phone interview last month about Kalaw’s move.
“Having two candidates of the same ethno-cultural background running from two different parties is an indication of division, fissures, and factions within a particular community,” Angeles, a Filipino-Canadian, said.
According Angeles, a Kalaw run will only split the vote of the Filipino community.
In a previous interview, Filipino-Canadian community commentator Ted Alcuitas told the Straight that it’s time for Filipinos to look beyond ethnicity in choosing their representatives.
“If both candidates are qualified, let the best candidate win,” Alcuitas said about Kalaw and Elmore. “We should not be voting based on ethnicity, without looking at the qualifications of the candidates.”
But Filipino-Canadian commentator Dave Fernandez has harsh words for Kalaw.
“Kalaw is a fool. He’s a total fool,” Fernandez told the Straight in a phone interview last month.
According to Fernandez, Kalaw is making a “terrible mistake” by challenging another Filipino-Canadian.
But for Ruby Rose Asuncion, having two Filipino-Canadians compete in the same constituency is a “good” thing.
According to the Filipino-Canadian mortgage professional, this will allow a more informed debate on issues, with voters not having to factor in ethnicity in making their choices.
“I welcome that challenge,” Asuncion told the Straight at Kalaw’s November 7 event. “It’s going to be a healthy competition.”
Asuncion also said that Filipino-Canadians should be proud that members of the community are now beginning to step up to the political plate. “All these years, we were spectators. We were never involved,” she said.
Chinese Canadian accountant Josephine Chan is the president of the B.C. Liberal constituency association in Vancouver-Kensington. According to Chan, the race will be determined by who between Kalaw and Elmore is going to work the hardest in wooing the voters in the neighbourhood.