China-US / People

Geng Tan: Canada's 1st MP from Chinese mainland

By Na Li (China Daily Canada) Updated: 2015-12-11 06:47

Geng Tan: Canada's 1st MP from Chinese mainland

Political newcomer Geng Tan acknowledges from supporters after being elected a member of Canada’s Parliament on Oct 19. Geng is the first immigrant from the Chinese mainland to be elected to the Canadian Parliament. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Geng Tan represents Don Valley North in Toronto

With 51.4 percent of the vote, Liberal Party member Geng Tan defeated Conservative MP Joe Daniel to win a seat in parliament to represent Don Valley North in Toronto on Oct 19.

Hailed by Chinese Mandarin community members as their "true voice", the political newcomer's win was not only a victory for Liberals, but was also seen as a milestone in the Chinese-Canadian community’s efforts to better participate in government and politics.

"I was so excited to be elected," Tan said recalling the win. "It is not easy for immigrants to get their foot in the door of Canadian politics, and I am proud of the best team that made it happen."

As a first-generation immigrant originally from the Chinese mainland, Geng has made Canada home for nearly two decades. Born in 1963 in Hunan, Geng came to Canada on a student visa in 1998. After completing his PhD in chemical engineering and applied chemistry at the University of Toronto, he worked as a scientist at Ontario Power Generation.

Geng's involvement with the community is closely tied to his Hunan associations. He was chairman of the Toronto University Chinese Students Association. After he graduated, he became the founder, first-term executive president and current co-chair of the Council of Newcomer Organizations and vice-chairman of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations.

Tan said not enough Chinese immigrants are interested in Canadian politics. He thinks they lack a voice and need to participate more.

"Sometimes people just lack the confidence to represent themselves," said Geng. "I had an advantage running for election — I study and work with both the Chinese and Canadian communities, so I know what the actual needs of the Chinese community are and how to put them into practice in Canada."

According to Geng, in a democratic society, citizens are granted rights, and chief among them is being able to participate in elections. "Every citizen has the right to compete for it, but if you don't make an effort, then the loss is your own, and you can't complain about the country or the society," he said.

"If you want to integrate into Canada, just investing in local projects is not enough. With its unique voice, our Chinese community should have a say," Tan said.

For Chinese immigrants, many of whom want to stay here, the new Liberal MP is an inspiration and an example of how to better integrate into Canadian society.

"I'm just a pioneer," Tan said. "I believe in the future there will be more and more new immigrants participating in politics. Because of my success today, future election candidates will take a lot fewer detours. For sure, I will do my best to share my experiences and I am willing to help them succeed.

"The fact that I reached such a level today is evidence of this," he said. "I greatly thank Canada for making my dreams come true. I’ll do my best to serve Canada, for a better tomorrow," Tan said.

As a newly elected parliamentarian, Geng plans to follow the leadership of newly elected Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"I would like to provide leadership to take care of the quality of life, the education and the work of thousands of constituents, listen to their voices, and make them part of the country's future development through the Parliament. At the same time, I will convey government policies and related information to voters, in a timely and effective manner, bridging the two sides," he said.

Tan said that he is not only the delegate of the voters to the Parliament, but also a representative of the Parliament to his constituency. He hopes his professional background and community service experience, as well as the voices of the various ethnic communities, will combine to take part in the decision-making of Canada’s future, especially playing a unique role in the development and deepening of the Canada-China relationship.

"Throughout history, the Liberal governments of Canada have always maintained a proactive cooperation with the Chinese government, which is reflected not only in the economy and trade, but also in cultural and artistic interchanges," he said.

According to Geng, the importance of Canada-China relations is self-evident and especially true under the leadership of the Liberal government. Throughout the campaign, Liberal Party candidates repeatedly stressed that Canada-China relations should maintain a consistent and in-depth proactive relationship, that Canada should proactively join AIIB and that Canada should negotiate deeply with China, so as to promote the realization of bilateral free trade as soon as possible.

"We believe Justin Trudeau will open a new chapter in Canada-China relations and the win-win cooperation between the two countries will continue," said Geng. "There are millions of Chinese Canadians living in Canada, and we look forward to proactive cooperation and sound progress between the two countries. Just like the Chinese traditional saying: Visits from far away bring people closer and closer."

Tan said some people were surprised that the Liberal Party achieved such big victories in the election. And he said that may be because they do not understand the Canadian general public. From the first day of the campaign, the Liberals stressed "Real Change" as their party platform.

"We talked about this, and now we are doing this," Tan said.


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