The race for these seats in Italy’s parliament is likely to run through Toronto

Never been convinced of the merits of overseas constituencies as it raises issues of dual loyalties:

Mario Cortellucci is a real estate magnate in Vaughan, Ont., part the Italian cultural centre north of Toronto. He makes prosciutto and raw milk cheese and owns so many Norval Morrisseau originals he’s considering opening a museum dedicated to the late Indigenous artist. In his office, three of the paintings are on the floor, propped up against a wall among other hallmarks of a seemingly full life: a model of a suburb he’s been working to build for decades, photos of his children. But Mario Cortellucci is now, at 68, embarking on a second act. He, along with several other Italian-Canadians, is campaigning to enter the turbulent world of Italian politics in Rome.

Italy’s election next month will include races around the world, since Italy’s parliament has seats for politicians representing the diaspora in North America-Central America, Europe, South America and Asia-Africa-Oceania. Italian citizens living in the North and Central America region elect two members of the chamber of deputies (the lower house) and one for the senate. And while the number may seem insignificant among nearly 1,000 seats in both houses, tight elections in the past have seen some in Italy question why ex-pats in far-flung parts of the word should have any influence, said Western University political scientist Pietro Pirani.

A good amount of that influence comes from Canada, he said, particularly in Toronto. Canadian residents make up a quarter of the more than 400,000 constituents in the North American riding. Not everyone votes, however. And Toronto’s heavily-organized Italian community means local candidates have a better shot.

“If you want to be elected in North America, you have to come from Toronto,” Pirani said. “The largest and most organized community in North America is from Toronto.”

Not always, however. The outgoing senator is from Chicago. And the preceding one, Basilio Giordano, was from Montreal. Among the Canadians running for spots this year, there’s a sense that past politicians from the region were more concerned with the prestige and pomp than actually assisting Italians abroad.

“Just warm up the seat and they don’t do much,” Toronto-born senate candidate Tony D’Aversa said. “This isn’t about status, this is about doing your job.”

“A lot of them went to beautiful Rome and forgot about the people,” Cortellucci, a senate candidate with Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, said on Wednesday. Cortellucci says he doesn’t need the salary – he’s donating it if he wins. Instead, he said, he’s running because he was asked at Italian community functions and feels an obligation to the Italian immigrants who he’s worked with through his over 50-year career in Canada.

But his affiliation with Berlusconi’s coalition somewhat muddles the message, since the group has seen much criticism for having staunchly anti-immigrant factions. For his part, Cortellucci says he’s more concerned with the politics of Italians in North and Central America. Plus, his campaign manager Giacomo Parisi said, “He comes from an immigration family.”

“Mr. Cortellucci is a strong believer in immigration.”

Italian-born parliamentarians are skeptical of their ex-pat colleagues.

Italian candidates abroad often are only nominally affiliated with their party, Pirani said, though it’s unavoidable that voters will usually be more familiar with party brand than the name.

“Their role is mostly narrowed to the ways they can improve the lives of Italians abroad,” he said.

Toronto-born Francesca La Marca, with Italy’s Democratic party, has served as one of two North American representatives in the chamber of deputies since 2013. She’s running again in the March election and fully denies the idea that the five-year term was nothing more than a pleasant Roman sojourn. She said she encountered suspicion and scepticism from her Italian-born colleagues and even some of her younger constituents who emigrated more recently from Italy.

It took spending 70 percent of her time in Rome rather than North America, showing up to votes and introducing a bill to earn respect, she said, to the point that colleagues in the lower house began to consider her as the “Canadian ambassador” – turning their heads in her direction whenever debate landed on Canada, or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It would be easy to say you get a nice fat paycheque and you’re always travelling around,” she said. But in reality she has to pay out of pocket for hotels and meals on trips around her riding, spanning from Panama to Canada.

“Again,” she said, “I’m not complaining.”

Source: The race for these seats in Italy’s parliament is likely to run through Toronto

A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree. Also Black Canadians

The challenges in meeting the expectations of all groups in Canada, starting with Steve Paiken with respect to Italian Canadians:

But now that the dust is settling and Ottawa is beginning to get back to business, some observers — even Liberals — are allowing themselves to be a bit more critical.

Having spoken Thursday night to two prominent members of the Italian-Canadian community — both of whom are Liberals — they are more than a little miffed that there’s not a single member of their community in the new cabinet.

In some respects, it is a bit shocking. The Italian-Canadian community has always demonstrated overwhelming support for the Liberal Party of Canada.

“We’re not going to make a stink about this because the reaction to the new cabinet has been so positive,” one well-connected member of the Italian community told me. “But four ‎Sikhs and no Italians? I don’t know about that.”

Let’s remember, putting a cabinet together is almost by definition an impossible undertaking. There are so many boxes to check off: gender balance, regional balance, ethnic balance, generational balance, and the list goes on. Satisfying every constituency is a hopeless task.

Nevertheless, the absence of any Italian presence in a Liberal cabinet is noteworthy.

Another Liberal with whom I spoke last night — not an Italian — had less patience for the criticism. This source admitted, yes, Italians are under-represented in this cabinet, but added they’ve been over-represented in previous cabinets.

When Paul Martin took over the prime minister’s office in 2004, his cabinets would feature more ministers of Italian heritage than perhaps numbers warranted (Albina Guarnieri, Tony Valeri, Joe Volpe, Joe Fontana, Tony Ianno, Judy Sgro, and Joe Comuzzi).

“No one complained we had too many Italians back then,” this source said.

It’s not like Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t have enough Italian-Canadian MPs from which to choose. Liberal MPs with Italian backgrounds include former cabinet minister Judy Sgro; Joe Peschisolido, who has previous experience as a parliamentary secretary; Marco Mendicino, whose resume includes defeating floor-crossing MP Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination, then Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver for the seat in Eglinton-Lawrence;  Francis Scarpaleggia, an MP since 2004; Anthony Rota, first elected in 2004, sidelined for the last four years after losing in 2011, but back in now; and rookie MPs Francesco Sorbara, Mike Bossio, Angelo Iacono, David Lametti, and Nicola Di Iorio, among others.

When our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, once checked into a hotel, he was asked on the registration form what his occupation was. He wrote: “cabinet maker.”

Our first PM was a clever guy. He also understood that every time he made a decision to put someone in cabinet, it required a concurrent decision to keep several others out. High profile victorious candidates such as former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, former broadcaster Seamus O’Regan, downtown Toronto’s Adam Vaughan, and former general Andrew Leslie are among the many Liberal MPs who have learned this the hard way.

And so, apparently, are many Italian-Canadian MPs, who for the first time in three-and-a-half decades find themselves outside the Liberal inner circle. As we are learning, it is a curious and uncomfortable place for them to be.

Source: A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree | TVO.org

And Cecil Foster reflects on Black discontent:

It is as if there is no black in Canada. Maybe despite all its diversity Canada in 2015 is still a white man’s country, where as in time of old all eligible and desirable non-whites and males have been co-opted into whiteness. Just like the Italians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Afghans, etc. that are now all white Canadians. Diversity through assimilation. And as has always been the case, the one unassimilable group – primary because of the colour of skin and the historic outsider status – is blacks. And this is at a time when south of the border there is a black president. Maybe it is true that Canadian and U.S. cultures and politics are fundamentally different.

It is unbelievable that at this moment when diversity is the language and imagery of Canada, yet again we have been told in the jargon of street that if you are black, stand back. If there has been two groups that have been the measure of exclusion and marginalization in the Canada of old they were First Nations people and blacks. It is a moment of pride when we can see First Nations representation in the Canadian government, especially for me a First Nations Justice Minister and Attorney-General.

But whether it was as the original Loyalists that withdrew into what would become Canada, blacks were always part of this country and we have always been the moral conscience of this country. Indeed how can anyone begin a conversation on power, citizenship, multiculturalism, equity, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, criminality, discrimination and police carding without starting that conversation about historically what has been the role and positioning of blacks generally in this hemisphere and specifically in Canada?

So why are there no blacks in the cabinet? Perhaps because the cabinet was chosen on merit and no black was good enough. Perhaps no one ethnic or racialized group should be signalled out for special attention. Perhaps affirmative action should not be a factor. …

As the Prime Minister stated, the year is 2015. All these questions can be posed about any visible-minority group that is using the pictures of members of their community who are federal government ministers to tell their young see you, too, can become a government minister. For it to be really true, as our Prime Minister implied, that Canada has come a long way when any argument against the inclusion of any ethnic, racial, gendered or sexed group is so absurd that no real explanation is needed. Unless this inclusion is about other minorities, not blacks.

Unfortunately, there is the sense that the blacks in Canada have been slighted. And ironically this is one of the ethnic groups that have resolutely remained faithful politically to the Liberal Party of Canada in good and bad times, even when other ethnic groups with less of a legacy in Canada flirted with and even shifted support to other parties. Most enthusiastically support multiculturalism. Many in the black communities across Canada still revere Pierre Trudeau. What more needs to be said about loyalty or blacks and Liberals.

About two decades ago, I published a book titled A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada. Back then. I was writing about an ethno-racial group that is as old as Canada itself, that for want of a better phrase should be considered as much “old stock” as the English or French. Back then, this was a group still feeling marginalized and dreaming of a day when Canada would make young black boys and girls feel confident enough to believe that they can grow up to become members of the highest echelons of their society.

Source: Canada’s blacks: Still waiting for their moment of ‘real change’ – The Globe and Mail

A Torontonians journey to the heart of Italian politics

Interesting example of dual loyalties: being in a foreign parliament representing expatriates:

“It’s a highly precarious political situation,” she [Francesca La Marca] says. “There’s always drama and controversy – but that’s Italy for you.”

Ms. La Marca grew up in west-end Toronto admiring Bob Rae and Jack Layton, but she was immersed in Italy’s dramatics from her earliest years. Her Sicilian-born father was active in Italy’s Socialist Party, and together they followed the latest developments from a fractured country that is perpetually critical of its political status quo.“

Like many Italian-Canadians, he had a strong sense of nostalgia,” she says. “He wanted to see Italy more just and more efficient.”

The dual citizen found the same desire welling in her as a worldly Toronto teenager in the 1990s when she watched her Sicilian contemporaries marching in the streets to protest the murder of crusading judges by the all-powerful Mafiosi – a transformative moment that prompted many Italians in her generation to enter politics and seek a culture shift, including the 39-year-old Prime Minister Renzi.

That level of political engagement, she says, marks a key difference from Canada.

“You look at Italian TV shows, you can’t get away from the constant debates. Politicians are there talking about issues and members of the public are putting them on the hot seat, and asking them very direct questions.

“I think it comes down to a different history and culture Italians are always on the streets conversing and arguing. They realize they have to fight to get somewhere, while we’re a more sheltered country that’s made up of different cultures, so we’re focused on getting along and getting things done.”

No matter how Italian she might feel in the more reticent parts of Toronto, her strong sense of Canadianness takes over in the unrepressed Italian system.

“There has to be a way to work effectively without all this excess,” she says. “Many people have this impression that Italy is very laid back and nothing gets done. Instead, it’s quite the opposite – really long hours, lots of meetings, and it’s not uncommon to finish at 10 or 11 at night. The stereotype of Italians being big talkers, meaning everything drags on and on, is absolutely true.”

She hopes to bring some Canadian efficiency to the competitive Italian political style by focusing on issues specific to the expatriate voters who elected her last year: She helps people obtain dual citizenship, get better access to health care when they return to Italy for extended periods, and source funding for teaching Italian language and culture in North America.

A Torontonians journey to the heart of Italian politics – The Globe and Mail.