For MPP Raymond Cho, his political role fits his private life.
As the province’s minister of seniors and accessibility, the long-serving elected official turns 85 on Thursday and says he also knows first-hand about disability issues.
Three days after the 2018 provincial election in June, he was touring churches in his Scarborough North riding to thank constituents and while visiting one “all of a sudden I realized that my pronunciation was not clear and I felt a little dizzy … I got hit by a mild stroke,” he said in an interview.
Cho was taken to Sunnybrook hospital, and treated in intensive care, where he said Premier Doug Ford visited him within an hour or two.
After a short hospital stay, “I was lucky that I walked out,” said Cho, who continues to suffer balance issues but is able to get around without any supports.
Cho, the first Korean-born person elected to Metro council and the first to serve in Ontario’s legislature, celebrates his 30th year as an elected politician this week.
“Raymond is an incredible representative for the people of Scarborough,” Ford said in a statement to the Star.
“He is kind, gracious, and one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community he serves for 30 years and I’m so proud to have him on our team at Queen’s Park.”
Cho came to Canada from South Korea in 1967, and worked as a janitor, waiter and miner while putting himself through the University of Toronto.
He was a social worker before turning to a life of politics, running federally for the NDP, and later with unofficial ties to the Liberal party. He was first elected in 1991 to what was then the Metro council, and re-elected eight times to Toronto city council.
Now the oldest MPP at the legislature, Cho joined the Progressive Conservative party after former leader Patrick Brown talked him into running in a 2016 byelection. Ford — who was then a city councillor — served as chair of his successful campaign, which broke one of the longest Liberal winning streaks in the province’s history.
As the first minister of seniors and accessibility, Cho noted that spending has almost doubled, to more than $83 million, since was appointed to the job, and points to the extension of the seniors’ home safety tax credit as something he lobbied hard for.
“I know what disability means, because I got hit by a stroke and I’m a senior myself,” he said.
Married with three grown sons and six grandchildren, Cho said his mother is his inspiration and his wife, Soon Ok, his biggest supporter.
“When you do work you enjoy, you don’t get tired — you get more energy,” he said. “My work motivates me.”
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