Manitoba

'I'm part of this country now fully': New Canadians cast vote for the very first time

A couple who immigrated to Manitoba from the Philippines is celebrating after voting in the provincial election for the very first time.

'What struck me was that these parties have a set of principles and platforms': Kris Ontong, first-time voter

For Kris and Peegy Ontong, the build-up during the weeks before polls opening was the most exciting part. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

For Kris and Peegy Ontong, the build-up during the weeks before voting was the most exciting part.

The couple, who immigrated to Steinbach, Man., in 2010 after floodwaters destroyed their home in the Philippines, became eligible to vote this January after getting Canadian citizenship.

They took full advantage of their new right when they learned Manitoba's provincial election was being called a year early and started researching candidates from all parties, including conducting video interviews. They voted last Friday at an advanced poll.

"What struck me was that these parties have a set of principles and platforms that they really stick to," said Kris in his Steinbach home Tuesday.

"It also feels like I'm part of this country now fully, because I cast my vote."

Peegy Ontong says her message to other new Canadians to get out and vote because their voice matters. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The couple asked candidates outside of the Steinbach riding, like Cindy Lamoureux, who is running for the Liberals in Tyndall Park, to explain party positions.

They also talked to PC candidates Jon Reyes and incumbent Steinbach candidate Kelvin Goertzen, who the couple already knew through the community.

For Kris and Peegy Ontong, the build-up during the weeks before polls opening was the most exciting part. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

"The key thing is track record and what that person has been doing for the benefit of the riding he serves," said Peegy, explaining what led her to cast her vote.

Still, she and her husband had questions about the electoral process, including the basics like the difference between the provincial and federal election.

'Your vote will not be wasted'

She said it was important to show her daughter that voting is something people do once they become Canadian.

"For me, voting is your voice," she said.

"Your voice will not be wasted and your vote will make a difference, so instead of whining and complaining, it's better to be part of that change and make your voice heard," her husband added.

Signs for Kelvin Goertzen are filling Steinbach streets. The PC candidate and current MLA for the area is re-running for election. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Peegy said she and her husband could have qualified as Canadian citizens sooner but waited in part due to high registration fees.

"We were thinking maybe it's like a Walmart, there will be some rollbacks on the fees," she laughed.

Her husband pointed out TV stars and famous athletes often run for office back home and here in Manitoba, the race seemed a little more professional with measured candidates.

In the end, he was surprised at how simple it was to exercise his right to vote.

"It feels great but at the same time it's also anticlimactic when I got to the polling station because it's very simple."

Kris and Peegy Ontong immigrated to Steinbach, Man., in 2010 after floodwaters destroyed their home in the Philippines, became eligible to vote this January after getting Canadian citizenship. 1:57

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. This past summer, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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