“Coach” Mario Rimbao enters battle for NDP in Mount-Royal

Mario Rimbao (photo: Irwin Block)

An epic battle is set to unfold in Mount Royal riding as the three major parties seek to replace Irwin Cotler, retiring after 15 years as its Member of Parliament.

Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather is working hard to retain the seat for the Liberals, while three strong candidates are vying to represent the Conservatives. Conservative hopeful Robert Libman ran a full-page ad in the Canadian Jewish News last month to recruit members and outvote his rivals. Pascale Déry had supporter Sen. Jacques Demers on board when she held a “hockey night” at Roasters in the Marché Centrale, March 30. Also seeking the Conservative nomination is Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban weekly newspaper. The nomination meeting is expected at the end of April.

Where does that leave the New Democratic Party, a distant third in the 2011 election, when its candidate, Jeff Itcush won almost 7,000 votes – the NDP’s best score in the riding since Charles Taylor’s 15,000-votes in 1965 against a victorious Pierre Trudeau?

That gap is at the heart of the challenge facing NDP candidate Mario Jacinto Rimbao, 36, a relative unknown when it comes to public affairs, who’s determined to turn the campaign into a three-way race.

“I’m the underdog, without a doubt, but I always like a challenge.”

He says with a confident smile: “I have to introduce myself to the people, but everyone started somewhere. Robert Libman was completely unknown when he ran for the Equality Party. He started somewhere. Anthony Housefather started somewhere. I’m confident, and convinced there is a chance I can stage an upset.”

“One thing I’m good at throughout my life is dealing with people, touching their emotions, their passions, issues and problems. “I understand people, I grew up around different nationalities and backgrounds, and I know how to deal with all of them. I don’t have the celebrity status or the experience politically, but I know how people feel and think.”

In the Filipino community, comprising some 10 per cent of the riding, Rimbao is known as “coach” because, for most of the past 20 years, he has volunteered in the Philippines Basketball Association of Montreal.

Affable and easy-going, the 36-year-old has deep links to the West End. Born in Montreal, he was raised in Côte des Neiges, on Dupuis, and later in NDG, on Fielding, by Philippines-born parents. His father is a retired medical technologist and his late mother, a registered nurse. He lives in Brossard with his wife Roanne, a registered nurse, and their year-old daughter, Miya Alyanne, and father.

Rimbao was educated at Loyola High School, where he played basketball, volleyball, and competed in track and field. He completed CEGEP at Dawson College, and earned his B.A. in political science and history at Concordia, the last five courses while working in the shipping industry. He works for Fednav International, where he sets schedules for deep-sea cargo ships.

A longtime and committed social democrat, Rimbao says he decided to run because, following the birth of his first child, he realized how hard it is to find subsidized daycare even in Quebec, which uniquely in Canada has a limited number of spaces at $7.30 a day. (Under a new sliding scale, families earning more than $55,000 will pay more, up to $20 a day.)

“The NDP plan of $15-a-day daycare, which is based on the Quebec model, has really touched a lot of people who are having a hard time finding child care. It’s a provincial issue, but Thomas Mulcair’s offer of assistance to the provinces is a great idea.”

Rimbao is proud of Mulcair and the NDP’s opposition to Conservative anti-terrorism legislation, which would give police and Canada’s spy agency much broader powers and allow the detention of terror suspects.

“It’s creating an aura of George Orwell’s 1984. I read that book in high school and Big Brother was always watching. That’s not Canadian values.

“We understand protection, but we also have our freedoms. That’s how we define ourselves as Canadians. It sets up something that is very vague and could lead to something dangerous.”

He says he’s upset about the dispatch of Canadian Forces to Iraq and the fact their mandate is “very vague,” noting the tragic death of Sgt. Andrew Doiron after friendly fire from Kurdish forces, returning from a mission in a zone of fighting against the Islamic State forces.

“This touches me personally. I have a cousin who went to Afghanistan, who was with the Canadian Forces fighting there. I don’t think the Canadian government is doing enough to support the soldiers when they come back.”

The corruption charges against senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau only accentuates the timeliness of NDP policy on the Senate, he said.

“I’m really supportive of the NDP idea to abolish the Senate,” he says. It was estimated four years ago to cost more than $106 million a year, excluding pension-plan contributions.

Rimbao was acclaimed at a riding association meeting at the YM-YWHA on Westbury.


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