Lorenzo Berardinetti wins in Ontario election 2011

by Akihiko Tse, Centennial Journalism

SCARBOROUGH – With his birthday coming only two weeks after the election, Lorenzo Berardinetti has more reasons than one to celebrate.

Berardinetti, 49, who was re-elected in to his third term in the riding of Scarborough Southwest, won with 14,585 votes or 44.1 per cent. Bruce Budd of the New Democratic Party came in second with 10,404 votes (31.5 per cent), while Mike Chopowick of the Progressive Conservative party came in third with 7,061 votes (21.3 per cent).

He will be turning 50 on October 21.

With news of the Liberal party’s anticipated victory breaking before Berardinetti’s arrival, many supporters waiting at his constituency office Thursday night were already feasting on salads, lasagna and an abundance of desserts while others indulged on beer and champagne. Berardinetti and his wife, Michelle, entered to rapturous applause.

“I want to thank everybody for their help, all the volunteers, my lovely wife, who has helped me by my side the whole way through and my parents, who have been going through this since 1988. They worry more than anyone else but they love their son so that’s why they do it,” Berardinetti said, in his speech.

He also lavished praise on his campaign team, calling some of them “Relentless Liberal gladiators.”

Asked how he felt with the  result, he described it as “A sense of relief.”

Citing the fact that he had won by two votes when he was first elected to the former Scarborough city council in 1988, Berardinetti said, “It’s a sense of accomplishment and of happiness since you always do worry during campaigns.”

“I knew it was going to be a tight race. I became the first Liberal to get elected [in the riding] back in 2003 so it’s nice to be able to win again,” he said.  Listen to the interview with the candidate here.

Berardinetti, who studied law at the University of Windsor and was called to the Ontario bar two years later, said that had he not won in ‘88, he would have gone on to practice law. He is currently the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour.

In his campaign platform, Berardinetti put a strong focus on job creation and economic growth, as well as education and healthcare for his constituency.

In an earlier interview, Berardinetti blamed Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, for misconstruing the training tax credit proposal as “Immigrants get jobs and Canadian’s don’t.” The proposal will give employers who hire newcomers to Canada a $10,000 grant. A survey conducted by Abacus data showed that 62 per cent of Ontarians opposed the newcomers training tax credit plan while 23 per cent supported it.

Berardinetti said there are many immigrants who are Canadian citizens in his constituency and have proper accreditations from other countries. He acknowledged that it was difficult for him to continue encouraging immigrants to look for jobs in their fields of expertise when Canadian qualifications are usually favored over  foreign ones.

“We want to have people who are highly skilled. Engineers can’t find jobs, the doctors, the architects… it doesn’t really apply to people who have just gotten here but it applies to Canadians who can’t find jobs,” he said.

As another plan to increase jobs, Berardinetti said that the new Green Energy Act, which a recent poll by Oraclepoll Research Limited showed that a majority of Ontarians supported, will aim to install solar panels and wind turbines to foster the growth of various renewable energy projects.

Hudak has opposed the $7 billion project, which the Liberals say will create in excess of 15,000 jobs, because it requires subsidies from taxpayers to create and operate plants in Ontario.

Berardinetti says that while his riding of Scarborough Southwest is incompatible for wind turbines to be created due to a lack of wind, other companies involved will be more inclined to do business in Ontario since its reputable standing in education and healthcare will prompt prospective employees to work and bring their families here.

Other plans in Berardinetti’s platform include a $4.4 million investment in Variety Village and The Children’s Charity. Others due to receive large funding include Providence Healthcare ($218,352), Scarborough Village Youth Service Provider’s Network ($220,700), Cliffcrest Community Centre ($375,000) and Second base Youth Shelter ($220,000).

For his immediate plans, Berardinetti says he first aims to tackle the issue of the Quarry Lands development, where plans for condominiums to be built near Clonmore Drive and Gerrard Street East over a potentially “contaminated” former quarry and garbage dumpsite have already been approved.

Negotiations between residents and city officials have been at an impasse since 2004 with the developers, Conservatory Group and Build Toronto, so far reluctant to modify proposals to one acceptable to all parties.

“We don’t know what’s down there. There could be contaminants so I’m going to do everything in my power to continue working with the Ministry of Environment to ensure that before anything is built it goes through a proper environmental assessment,” Berardinetti said.

Supporters voiced their delight at Berardinetti’s victory.

“We won today by a landslide and I’m very happy,” said Athiq Sediqzadah, vice president of external affairs for the Young Liberals Association at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

He added, “With the provincial policy now to lower tuition by 30 per cent, I think it’s a great stride as far as interference with financial obligations to students go.”

Michelle Berardinetti, city councillor for Scarborough Southwest (Ward 35) who also sits on Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee, said that they were humble in the face of the result and thankful to all the residents of the riding.

When asked whether there were any conflicts between she and her husband’s political perspectives, she said, “I feel that I am a Liberal who brings a centralist, moderate and thoughtful approach to the executive [committee].”

Soon after marrying in 2005, Berardinetti tabled a bill that aimed at outlawing “gender-based pricing”, after witnessing the disproportion in costs of similar services when he was out shopping with his wife. He claimed that the practice is discriminatory and an act of human rights violation.

“A dollar in my hand should be worth the same as a dollar in your hand or anyone’s hand in the province of Ontario,” he told CBC. The bill has yet to be passed in to law.