With his family behind him, Peter Fragiskatos handily won his first federal race in October and is ready to prove himself in Ottawa.
Born into a vibrant Greek family in London, Ontario, Fragiskatos lived on Egerton Street with his brother and sister and spent the first seven years in the city before moving to Exeter, a town half an hour north of London.
“As a group we are very close knit family and not just my immediate family — I see my second cousins as my first cousins and first cousins as brothers and sisters. Family is everything for me,” he says.
Fragiskatos credits his grandmothers as playing an essential role in his upbringing. While his maternal grandmother used to live with him, his paternal grandmother would come to Canada every six months to visit her children and grandchildren.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m fluent in Greek, it was the only way to converse with my grandmothers,” he says with a chuckle.
Growing up, Fragiskatos was influenced by leaders such as Lester B. Pearson and Robert Kennedy.
“I read voraciously on those two people. Pearson was so instrumental to Canadian foreign policy,” he says. “Unfortunately [Kennedy] didn’t get the chance to become president of the United States but I think his message of peace, hope and opportunity still resonate today.”
Fragiskatos returned to London in his late teens to begin his undergraduate education at King’s University College at Western. He studied philosophy, history and sociology, but his main focus was always political science. He fondly remembers his undergraduate days and appreciates the faculty for having a genuine and caring attitude towards students. Fragiskatos then went on to complete his Master’s degree in international relations at Queen’s University and a PhD, also in international relations, from Cambridge University in England.
At Cambridge, Fragiskatos focused on the problems facing the Kurdish people and looked at the history of Kurdish human rights advocacy from the 1920s to the modern day.
“I had the chance to work with some of the finest minds when it comes to international affairs. I spent about four years there and it’s an experience I’ll never forget,” he says.
Fragiskatos then returned as a faculty member to King’s. He spent half his time teaching and the other half writing for various media organizations. His works have been published in both national and international outlets including Maclean’s, the Toronto Star, BBC and CNN. He thoroughly enjoyed his time teaching and thinks students genuinely care about the world around them.
“There’s this idea of youth apathy — I think it’s a myth. I really think young people care a great deal about their communities, it’s just a matter of making sure they are able to find pursuits that match their interests,” he says.
It was during his mid-20s when Fragiskatos really started to get interested in politics. He started volunteering for different organizations but the issue closest to his heart was poverty. He felt that getting involved in the political process was a critical way to make a change in society. Fragiskatos became a member of the local Liberal riding association, then the chair of community outreach and it culminated in him running and winning the nomination for the Liberal Party candidacy for London North Centre.
On August 4, 2015, the campaign officially kicked off for Canada’s 42nd federal election. Fragiskatos, now 34, and his campaign team started knocking on doors and calling voters in the riding. Fragiskatos credits his family and campaign staff for providing him constant support and encouragement on the long campaign trail.
On election night, Fragiskatos watched the results come out with his partner Katy Boychuk, his family and members of his campaign team. It was a euphoric night and Fragiskatos received a hero’s welcome when he arrived at his campaign party at Western Fair. However, Fragiskatos is wary of getting too caught up in celebrations.
“I was very cognizant of the fact that there’s a lot of work to do,” he says. “We have a real responsibility as Members of Parliament to be the voice of our community in Ottawa and that’s why I’m doing this.”
Fragiskatos sees a number of local issues that he wants to advocate for at the federal level. At the top of his agenda is transit.
“London is the only major city in Canada without a rapid transit system and we need to change that,” he says.
Fragiskatos plans to work with the municipal government on transit issues and strongly advocate for the city’s plans in Ottawa. Federally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made infrastructure a central part of his election campaign and Fragiskatos feels transit is central in those plans.
Apart from transit, Fragiskatos feels strongly about economic issues of the middle class and the plight of seniors around the country.
“I’m very concerned about the plight of seniors and the fact that we have an aging population, we have to make sure our healthcare system recognizes that fact and is prepared for it going down the road,” he says.
Fragiskatos has a keen interest in foreign affairs and wants Canada’s voice to be restored on the international stage. He also wants to pay particular attention to Canada-Africa relations. The Canadian government took their focus off of Africa under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership but Fragiskatos feels that the continent exhibits a substantial potential for growth and business development.
“We should restore the efforts made under [former Prime Minister] Paul Martin and actually engage the African continent and not only on moral basis but because it makes economic sense to do so,” he says.
Fragiskatos condemned the recent terror attacks in Paris and elsewhere in the world.
“These attacks need to condemned — we always have to speak out against terrorism. We have to do that as Members of Parliament, we also have to do as Canadians as well,” he says.
Fragiskatos agrees with Trudeau’s plans to train local forces on the ground such as the Kurdish Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS. He believes in Trudeau’s collaborative leadership style and is excited to work with him.
“I can tell you in our first caucus meeting he was unequivocal,” he says. “MPs have a primary responsibility and that is to be the voice of their communities and when you have a prime minister who doesn’t only believe that but continually reinforces, that says to me that we have the kind of leader who is going to take the role … seriously.”
Fragiskatos plans on keeping in continual touch with his constituents and other stakeholders in his riding, including student councils, to advocate for their issues in Ottawa.
With the House of Commons reconvening for the first time since the election on December 3, Fragiskatos is hopeful and optimistic for the future of the country under the new Liberal government.
“We are all anxious to get to work,” he says.