Politics

Friday, 04 September 2015 13:06

The #IranDeal in #Elxn42

Written by

by Rosanna Haroutounian (@RHaroutounian) in Ottawa, Ontario

While the federal election campaigns have largely focused on domestic issues, some members of Canada’s Iranian community are wondering whether Canada’s next government will renew relations with Iran following the new nuclear deal.

On Sept. 2, United States President Barack Obama secured enough support from Democrats to endorse the July 14 deal between Iran, the U.S. and five other nations to limit Iran’s nuclear capability and end economic sanctions that have depressed the value of the country’s currency and inflated the cost of basic goods.

“Prices are so incredibility expensive,” says Golrokh Niazi, who visited Iran earlier this year. “I couldn’t figure out with the incomes that some people are making, how they were surviving.”

Niazi immigrated to Winnipeg from Iran with her family in 1998. Now studying comparative politics as a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, Niazi says that among young people in Iran, there is a lack of hope for change or prosperity because of their exclusion from the international community.

Over 60 per cent of Iran’s 73 million people are under 30 years old. According to World Bank estimates, 24 per cent of Iran’s youth are unemployed.

Here in Canada, there appears to be more hope over the deal.

The Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) found that about 75 per cent of 226 members surveyed believe the deal would benefit the economic well being of Iranians in Iran. The ICC – a non-partisan, non-religious organization – has about 1,500 members, mostly in the GTA.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Not everyone who supports the deal is necessarily supportive of the Iranian government, says Iranian Canadian Congress president Arsalan Kahnemuyipour.[/quote]

In a second survey, almost 80 per cent of 181 members surveyed said they support the deal, while about 14 per cent said they do not. The rest were undecided.

“The people who are against it typically are against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and they feel like anything that might strengthen the regime would go against the people,” says Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, the ICC’s president. He adds though that not everyone who supports the deal is necessarily supportive of the Iranian government.

Supporting deal ‘in line’ with Canadian values

Globally, reactions from Iranians have been mostly positive. People gathered in over 90 cities around the world in August for the #SupportIranDeal Global Day of Peace.

Niazi organized an event outside Parliament in Ottawa on Aug. 14. She says about 35 people attended and carried signs and flowers to support peace and prevention of another war in the Middle East.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPQ4w-XQwwA[/youtube]

Video Source: Support Iran Deal YouTube Channel

“We have experienced years of hostility between Iran and the rest of the world, and the only people who have gotten hurt as a result of it are ordinary people trying to live their lives like everybody else,” she says.

Niazi adds that while there are many issues she will consider when it comes time to vote in October, the government’s willingness to cooperate with Iran is reflective of its commitment to diplomatic relations.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Supporting the deal is a duty incumbent to us, all of us if we consider ourselves as Canadians.”[/quote]

“Supporting the deal is a duty incumbent to us, all of us if we consider ourselves as Canadians committed to the security, prosperity, and implementing of the values that forms Canadian identity,” says Mahmoud Masaeli, professor of Global Ethics and International Development at the University of Ottawa. “Resistance, in opposite, has damaged our face in the world, and may harm national solidarity.”

Canada suspended diplomatic ties with Iran in September of 2012. Iranian diplomats were expelled and the Iranian embassy in Ottawa has been closed ever since. The Canadian embassy in Iran was also closed.

“Extra sanctions by Canada and the rigid position of the government have hindered the free economic transactions between Canadian and Iranian companies,” says Masaeli. “This has definite negative impacts on the mind of the Iranian community and moves them away from voting Conservative.”

Where the parties stand

The Conservative government’s pro-Israel views are part of its reluctance to embrace a nuclear deal. A statement on the deal from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rob Nicholson, makes no mention of renewing relations.

“Iran continues to be a significant threat to international peace and security owing to the regime’s nuclear ambitions, its continuing support for terrorism, its repeated calls for the destruction of Israel, and its disregard for basic human rights,” he states.

Sixty-five per cent of 181 members surveyed by the ICC say they are against his statement, while almost 21 per cent say they support it.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he Iranian Canadian Congress is trying to hold a debate between Iranian Canadian candidates in the Greater Toronto Area.[/quote]

Kahnemuyipour says the ICC is trying to hold a debate between Iranian Canadian candidates in the Greater Toronto Area – two from the Liberal party, one from the New Democratic Party, and one from the Conservative party.

The Liberal party’s foreign affairs critic, Marc Garneau, issued a statement saying the party welcomes the agreement and believes in the importance of a diplomatic solution.

At the same time, he says the Liberals believe Iran must be accountable for its support of terrorist organizations, human rights violations, aggression towards Israel and its nuclear program.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has also said he would normalize relations with Iran.

While the NDP did not release an official statement, the party’s foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, is quoted as saying all eyes will be on Iran following the agreement.

Dewar said Canada should work with the U.S. and the European Union “to encourage further reforms.”

The Green Party did not release an official statement on the deal, but it is the only party with a policy on Iran on its website.

The policy states that Canada should be supportive of a deal between Iran and the U.S. and calls for cooperative engagement and an end to Iran’s isolation.

It goes on to say that change must come from the Iranian people, supported by understanding and peaceful actions by nations like Canada.

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Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:12

What Makes Brampton Voters Tick

Written by

by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton, Ontario

With campaigning for the 42nd Canadian federal election on October 19 gaining momentum, the issues uppermost amongst voters in the ridings of Brampton, a city in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), are no different than that of others across the country. 

In 2011, the Conservatives had a strong showing in the GTA and its surrounding areas by winning 19 new seats. This boost effectively secured the party its 11-seat majority in the House of Commons.

This breakthrough may be giving the Tories an edge this time around, as well as the ridings they won a special status on the hustings.

In particular, the five ridings in Brampton – Brampton North, Brampton Centre, Brampton South, Brampton West and Brampton East – are considered the best to micro-target and win.

With a population over half a million, Brampton’s growth of late has been fuelled by immigrants who now account for half the number of people living there. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]ll the three major parties ... are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks.[/quote]

As two-thirds of the immigrants are visible minorities, hearing Punjabi or Urdu is as common as English. Other languages heard in the city are Portuguese, Gujarati, Spanish, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, Italian and Polish. 

The babel of languages combined with a significantly younger population at times makes Brampton an enigma for outsiders. And it is no different for political parties. 

To crack the code, all the three major parties have fielded a large number of visible minority candidates and are paying careful attention to Brampton ridings, with leaders making multiple campaign stops over the past few weeks. 

But exactly how easy is it to win over Brampton voters?

“Many times I have heard our political leaders making sweeping statements, particularly when an election draws near,” says Solomon Naz, a professional writer and author.

“They say come to me any time with problems of the riding. But as voters we need to go beyond that and start asking candidates about their political agenda and party manifesto.” 

Naz says candidates should be aware of problems facing a riding instead of soliciting them from constituents. “If they simply tell us what they have done over the years for a riding, they do not have to beg for votes and canvass.” 

Federal support 

Many in Brampton see the sinking value of the Canadian dollar against its U.S. counterpart as a sign of a weakening economy and the inevitable increase in prices of imported food and fuel. 

The delivery of the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit cheques to parents, just before the start of the election campaign, doesn’t seem to have softened the blow.   

“We were so happy when we got [the] big cheque and we thought [the] Harper government is really helping the poor people, and thinking about Canadian families,” recalls Surjit Gunraj, a mother of two, who lives in Brampton West. 

“But just after a week or so we come to know from TV and newspapers that much of the money would be taken back as tax.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”[/quote]

Macro economic issues are not the only ones to bother Brampton residents. There are a host of local issues too.

“No matter which party comes to power, as a Brampton resident, I want to see more nurses, more doctors in our hospitals, better and safe service,” says Ajinder Singh, expressing distress at the current state of medical services in the city.

“To improve standards, federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together for Bramptonians.”  

Singh’s sentiment resonates with Mayor Linda Jeffrey.

“City council and residents are keen to know how the federal government will be supporting growing cities like Brampton as our transit and infrastructure demands continue to be a burden on the property taxpayer,” says Jeffrey.

She says the federal government has an important role to play in providing affordable housing. 

“Along with my large urban mayor colleagues I am concerned by the gradual and systematic withdrawal of federal financial support of new projects as well as the maintenance of existing facilities. I would like to see all party leaders commit the federal government to take on a leadership role in affordable housing and working closely with municipalities across Canada and more specifically Peel Region to address this growing backlog.”

Immigration matters

Brampton being what it is today because of its new Canadian demographics, issues around immigration remain on community members’ minds.

“We have seen the Liberals in the past and now the Conservatives proclaim themselves as best for immigrants,” says Gurvinder Kaur Virdi, a long-time Brampton resident who runs her own graphic design shop. 

“But they are not. The current government has made its immigration rules so tough that even sponsoring a spouse is a difficult process. Yes, they need to put a cap on fake marriages, but because of just a few cases, everybody is suffering. Put something else in place to detect fraud, instead of making it difficult for everyone.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants.”[/quote]

Dr. Balwinder Singh, host of the local Sargam Radio, says the immigration system should not be run on an ad hoc basis.

“There must be a clear and well defined policy to guide the way Canada accepts immigrants,” he says. “Obviously, people expect more officers deployed for timely disposal of the applications.”

Gursimrat Grewal, the editor of Punjab Star weekly newspaper, maintains that Brampton constituents must elect the party that can best look after immigration matters.

“Because the Liberal government made the Canadian system so liberal, the Conservatives made excuses about needing time to clean up the mess left behind by the Liberals. Now everybody can see what they have done to immigration policies and some other sectors,” says Grewal.

“It is inevitable that we now give the NDP a chance.”

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by Selina Chignall

Political candidates have been risking their composure, their message control and their dignity to court the youth vote since long before Bill Clinton answered the “boxers or briefs?” question on MTV in 1994. 

In our own current election campaign, there has not yet been much talk of appealing to the finicky Millennial vote, either in the only leaders’ debate on Aug. 6 or on the campaign trail.

On Thursday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was the first of the three major party leaders to participate in a Facebook Q&A.

Mulcair, who got no awkward queries about his underwear preferences, answered questions on a variety of issues such as CBC funding, the push for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and affordable daycare.

According to the latest iPolitics/EKOS poll, approximately 39 per cent of 18-to-34 year olds said they would vote NDP if an election were held tomorrow. About 26 per cent would vote Liberal and 24 per cent said they would vote for the Conservative Party.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Getting the millennial vote — which represents about 25 per cent of the population — could be the deciding factor in this three-way election race.[/quote]

“The politicians are fishing where the fish are and this is important — because young people don’t vote,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, the director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto Scarborough and former managing editor and chief journalist for CBC Radio.

Going where the voters are

Getting the millennial vote — which represents about 25 per cent of the population — could be the deciding factor in this three-way election race. The only problem is getting this demographic out and voting. In the last federal election, about 38 per cent of those 18-to-24 voted. For older millennials, 25-to-34, that number rose to about 45 per cent.

With 49 days until the election, Dvorkin says party leaders will have to use social media to get their platforms out to millennials because of the changing nature of the political campaign.

“Meeting the voters means you have to go where they are.”

For Mulcair — who is avidly going after the millennial vote — it means engaging with this demographic online. The Toronto Star reported those 25-to-34 spent 110 hours online a week — the most of any Canadian demographic.

Mulcair is not the only leader to use social media to get his message out to young Canadians. In April, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sat down with VICE founder Shane Smith for a 15-minute interview. They chatted about issues millennials care about: climate change, Bill C-51 and marijuana legalization.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“You have to look at it from a branding standpoint and what your key demographics are.”[/quote]

Whether the approach is enough to get young voters excited about either Mulcair or Trudeau and motivated to vote is another question, said Dvorkin.

“You have to look at it from a branding standpoint and what your key demographics are,” said David McGrane, a professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan, on why these leaders are on social media.

McGrane says he doubts Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be on social media the way Mulcair or Trudeau are because young people tend to vote for left-wing parties.

But Conservative strategist Tim Powers argues Harper is quite active on social media. He tweets, Instagrams and has a video channel — 24 Seven — on Youtube. These are some of the platforms he uses to communicate with his supporters.

“Whether [these messages] are creative enough or effective enough is one thing — but they certainly are not afraid to embrace various channels that are out there,” Powers said.

Powers says even though younger people might be left-leaning, Harper has tried to reach out to millennials through policies like the “no Netflix tax” — which promised no tax on digital streaming services.

He also says Harper could follow in the footsteps of Trudeau and Mulcair in taking part in online interviews and Q-and-A's if he thought votes were there to be had. ”If he saw a proposition to use tools like that to move voters to the polls, you can be damn sure he would do it.”

Different medium, same game

Whether Trudeau would pursue further online and non-traditional media interviews, Olivier Duchesneau The Liberal Party’s communications manager and spokesperson, said he was not in a position to confirm future plans. In the e-mail he did express that “Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada are always eager to use new technologies and online platforms to engage Canadians, especially young Canadians.”

Having leaders use social media to engage with people online, McGrane says can mobilize young voters and activists. But some disgruntled Facebookers — politically motivated or not — complained that Mulcair’s Q-and-A was too short and that his answers were merely talking points. 

Politicians might change their message for the medium they are using, or the demographic they are speaking too — but they aren’t going to go off script, McGrane said.

“It’s modern politics. In 2015 — no one ever goes off their message.”


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

“Did I tell you the time I was called 'a little girl'?” asks MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan incredulously.

Sitting in her election campaign headquarters in Scarborough’s Malvern neighbourhood, the first-term MP is recounting her experiences in politics after being elected in 2011 from Scarborough – Rouge River on the New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket. She was 29.

“It was a Citizenship and Immigration committee and I had the floor and I was speaking. And the chair had the audacity to say to me, ‘settle down little girl.’” Now four years older, she is seeking re-election from the new riding of Scarborough North to a Parliament which, she asserts, is still “very much an old white man’s club.”

The Sri Lanka-born MP sees herself very much part of a changing Canada, pointing out that for the first time ever, in 2011, the average age of MPs was below 50 years. The House of Commons also had the highest number of women. 

She has many firsts – first woman and first woman of colour MP to represent her riding – she was also the first MP of Tamil ancestry in the House. She and her family emigrated from Sri Lanka when she was five.

Often assumed to be “working for someone” or “somebody’s assistant” when she shows up for fancy galas and social gatherings, Sitsabaiesan told New Canadian Media in an exclusive interview that she has to work three times as hard as other MPs.

“Breaking down those pre-conceived notions is one part of the job of a young woman of colour who grew up in poverty, and is not a doctor or a lawyer, but it’s also just about holding my own.” [Picture shows Sitsabaiesan at her 2015 campaign launch on Aug. 22. Credit: Campaign supplied photo]

In love with Scarborough

Sitsabaiesan first fell in love with Scarborough, in the east end of Toronto, at the beginning of high school. As her family lived in Mississauga on its western edge, she would commute – sometimes three hours one way – to attend dance classes and Tamil school and later to volunteer.

Over time she became more engaged in civic activities, volunteering with community groups like the now defunct Malvern Community Coalition and the Action for Neighbourhood Change organization. Six years ago, she decided to make Scarborough her home.

Though pockets of the community, particularly Malvern, have at times been viewed negatively in the media, Sitsabaiesan says the riding’s overall welcoming nature is what she loves the most.

“That sense of community is really obvious in all the pockets and neighbourhoods within Scarborough Rouge River and that’s, I think, the best thing for me.”

She talks of the high level of diversity in the riding allowing her to be the “social chameleon” that she is and building meaningful inroads with all community members – whether by participating in the annual Caribbean Carnival or visiting the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatic Care.

She says she strongly believes that her intimate connection with the community is what voters gravitated to in the last election – an election that saw a significant rise in voter turnout for a riding that ranked second-lowest in Ontario during the previous federal elections in 2008.  

“I really do think that made a difference,” she says. “That if you’re seeking to be a representative of the community, that you’re actually a member of the community, that you can actually understand what life is for people in that community and what their lived experiences would be.”

Tight three-way race

While the name and face of Sitsabaiesan may have been the change people voted for in the last election, it may not be the same this time around, as the boundaries have changed.

While Sitsabaiesan easily won her former riding, the new one, which combines Scarborough – Rouge River and Scarborough – Agincourt, could be a different story. Portions of neighbourhoods like Malvern and Morningside Heights are now out of her riding boundaries and she can expect a tight three-way race. 

Sitsabaiesan’s Liberal challenger is Shaun Chen, who resigned as chair of Toronto District School Board to fight the election. Her Conservative opponent is businesswoman and community activist Ravinder Malhi.

Elections Canada has applied the 2011 results to the new riding boundaries and it shows a very tight race. Even a small swing might result in a very different outcome. The NDP would have won Scarborough North with 35.3 per cent of the vote, compared to 33.3 per cent for the Conservatives and 28.9 per cent for the Liberals. The sitting MP is aware that while Scarborough – Rouge River had the highest Tamil population among all the ridings, fewer voters in Scarborough North share the same heritage. [Picture shows MP Sitsabaiesan hugging long-time supporter Mark Atikian, member of the Armenian National Committee of Toronto. Credit: Campaign supplied photo]

Criticism and controversy

Outside her riding, Sitsabaiesan has received negative attention, the most recent being a personal trip to Sri Lanka and India at the end of 2013 that generated some criticism and controversy.

The critics come with the territory, she says, adding that some people argue she does too much for the Tamil community, while others argue that she doesn’t do enough.

What she stands behind, though, is the work she has done for all of her constituents. She mentions that her office has helped more than 1,000 individuals and families, the majority of which have been immigration-related issues.

She may also have had a role in inspiring other candidates of Tamil heritage in running this time: Senthi Chelliah, NDP Candidate for the riding of Markham-Thornhill; Rev. K.M. Shanthikumar, NDP Candidate for the riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park; and Gary Anandasangaree, Liberal Candidate for riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park. 

While her global human rights work has seen her take up causes in Guatemala, Honduras, the Philippines and India, she says the high level of child poverty and legislation like Bill C-24 (the new citizenship Act) and Bill C-51 (anti-terrorism) are examples of the long way Canada still has to go.

“While we’re helping people all over the world have a sense of fairness, we need to make sure that we’re doing that here at home.” 


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by Jeremy J. Nuttall (@Tyee_Nuttall) in Ottawa, Ontario

The battle for votes in Vancouver's large Chinese community is being complicated by deep divisions over immigration issues here and across the Pacific in Hong Kong.

Chinese-language radio talk-show hosts say callers are more worked up than ever about the federal election.

And their support seems largely determined by where they came from in China and their attitude toward tougher immigration rules introduced by the federal government since the 2011 election.

Cantonese-speakers, mainly people from Hong Kong and southern parts of Mainland China, tend to be staunch Conservative supporters.

But for Mandarin-speakers, from northern China and Taiwan, new immigration rules have become the focus of opposition to Stephen Harper's party.

It's an important political battle. About 14.8 per cent of Greater Vancouver residents reported Chinese as a mother tongue in the 2011 census, with 5.8 per cent reporting Cantonese and four per cent Mandarin. Five per cent didn't specify a Chinese language.

On 'Public Forum,' supporters chatter

Johann Chang hosts Public Forum, a weekend Cantonese language show on the Richmond-based Fairchild radio. He said phone lines light up with support for Harper.

"The Conservatives have a strong support base in the Cantonese community. They've been working for that base for a long time," he said. "Conservative supporters call into our show and basically take up the phone lines."

Callers are concerned with New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberal stances on marijuana legalization and chide the media for talking so much about the Mike Duffy trial, Chang said. They also complain the NDP satellite office issue hasn't been brought up as often as they would like.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Part of the Cantonese community who are from Hong Kong feel like that city has been flooded with immigrants from Mainland China."[/quote]

But the community is most divided over tougher immigration rules. The elimination of the skilled-worker program in 2012 and immigrant investor program in 2014 made it harder for Chinese residents to make a new home in Canada. The replacement programs set a tougher standard for would-be immigrants.

The Cantonese community, especially people from Hong Kong, welcomes the changes, Chang said.

"Part of the Cantonese community who are from Hong Kong feel like that city has been flooded with immigrants from Mainland China," Chang said. "So whatever policy makes it harder for Mainland Chinese, or even stops them, from coming to Canada, they can relate to."

Hong Kong's special status in China, created when the United Kingdom ceded control of the territory in 1997, provides freedoms not available in the rest of the country.

The influx of mainland immigrants and tourists to Hong Kong has increased as wealth in China grows, which has led to protests in Hong Kong.

On 'News Frontline,' foes grumble

But if you tune into Fairchild radio during drive time and catch Debbie Chen's show News Frontline, disgruntled Mandarin-speaking callers aren't happy with Harper.

Chen said immigration rules are the bullseye on a dartboard of policies that many Mandarin speakers oppose.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[Mandarin callers] think Conservatives only benefit the rich people."[/quote]

Generally, Mandarin speakers think the immigration changes are intended "to block out people from Mainland China," she said.

Most of Chen's Mandarin callers are not happy with Harper, she said, and don't care for policies like income splitting, which critics say favours wealthier Canadians.

"They think Conservatives only benefit the rich people," she said. "They think paying more taxes would be good to get more social benefits."

Chen said the anti-Harper callers appear to be split fairly evenly between support for the NDP and the Liberals, with the Liberals enjoying a slight edge.

Chen said many recent immigrants from China are more working class than the long-established Hong Kong community.

Divisions not unexpected: Houlden

Gordon Houlden of the University of Alberta's China Institute said the link between issues in China and Canada is not entirely unexpected, but still fascinating.

It's a reminder that the Chinese community isn't as monolithic as outsiders assume, he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"If you've been here longer and you're more settled, you may not welcome a wave of people who are similar in some ways, but different in others."[/quote]

New immigration rules focus more on skill set and education than family reunification, he said, so it makes sense that Mandarin speakers would be upset about the changes. The changes reduce the opportunity for relatives to join family members already in Canada.

On the other hand, the Cantonese community may support tougher immigration rules because it tends to be older and more established.

"If you've been here longer and you're more settled, you may not welcome a wave of people who are similar in some ways, but different in others," he said.

Houlden said protests in Hong Kong last year over Beijing's refusal to allow open elections may have added to the divisions between the two groups.

Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, said that Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese immigrants who call in generally also voice opposition to Harper.

"We have the free election right in Taiwan, so we don't like the government staying too long," Chen said. "The Conservatives kept power over 10 years, so some Taiwanese people think it's time to change."


Re-published with permission from The Tyee.

by Marieton Pacheco (@marietonpacheco) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Ever since Dr. Rey Pagtakhan served as Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004, first from Winnipeg North and then Winnipeg North - St. Paul, no one of Filipino descent has been elected to the House of Commons.

But the drought may be about to end as at least five candidates from the community are running in October’s federal election.

“They’re in for a tough battle,” says Aprodicio Laquian, former University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and author of Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada.

“Filipinos in general don’t vote for other Filipinos just because of shared heritage. They’re a lot more critical, their network allows them to easily identify who’s running … and if they’re running for their own selfish interest, they don’t vote.”

Laquian says that despite an estimated 700,000 Canadian residents tracing their ancestry back to the Philippines, there is also no real “Filipino town” or single riding in Canada where they make up a big chunk of the population. 

Winnipeg North, the riding that first sent Pagtakhan to Parliament, is the exception as an estimated 40 per cent of the population is of Filipino descent. 

Levy Abad, a human rights activist and singer/songwriter of Filipino heritage, is contesting there under the New Democrat banner and sees the demographic advantage only as a leg-up.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[A] Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities.”[/quote]

“Although it helps to have the support of the Filipino community, I think a Filipino running for office should not only depend on the support of one group but should engage all communities,” says Abad. 

Pagtakhan says ethnicity is only one of many factors. “While a particular community will likely support a candidate and party if they champion policies dear to their hearts, their combined credibility and qualities will also be considered.” 

Abad believes that his job as a multicultural outreach officer in Manitoba’s Ministry of Multiculturalism and Literacy has prepared him for the run. He says he knows the issues affecting all groups in his riding and would be their collective voice in Parliament. 

Facing negativity

In Vancouver Kingsway, a riding with half its population made up of visible minority groups, Conservative party candidate Francisco “Jojo” Quimpo does not have any advantage because of his ethnicity.

Quimpo will compete for votes of Chinese-Canadians who are the dominant group at 43 per cent of the population followed by fellow Filipino-Canadians at 11 per cent.

“I am running not just because I’m a Filipino. I’m an immigrant; my story is many other people’s story,” says Quimpo. “I can relate with many, I know the issues and challenges.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians.”[/quote]

A community leader, he is best known for organizing the annual Pinoy Fiesta that celebrates Philippine culture.

But ever since announcing his intention to run, he’s had his share of critics from within the community; some have even flipped on an earlier promise to support him by putting up lawn signs of his NDP rival, incumbent MP Don Davies.

Quimpo believes Filipinos as a group are turned off by politics due to their negative experience of the process back home. He wants the community to participate more in politics and to realize its positive impact here in Canada.

“To be comfortable with this kind of electoral process … you have to be passionate and committed with the values you represent to the people so they can understand. This is about the future of Canada, not only Filipinos, but also all Canadians,” says Quimpo.

Old-style Philippine politics

Nevertheless, Quimpo says the community members’ historical dislike for politics does not prevent them from resorting to old-style Philippine politics by seeking favours in return for votes. 

Since starting his campaign, he’s received requests for assistance ranging from helping a sick relative back home to expediting immigration applications. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”[/quote]

“I was running for the party nomination and was asking for kababayans [fellow Filipinos] to pay and become a member of the party so they could vote for me … I received so many questions on why they need to pay when I’m the one asking for their support!”

In Winnipeg Abad says he’s heard of similar stories during his campaign, but has no experience of people asking for favours outright. 

“The residents of Winnipeg North have a lot of concerns like poverty, crime, housing that should be properly addressed and offering paltry solutions will not help.”

Fielding Filipino candidates

In Mt. Royal, Quebec, basketball coach Mario Rimbao is hoping residents will see him beyond sports.

The challenge of finding available daycare prompted him to enter politics under the NDP banner. He wants to do more for immigrants with a focus on family reunification.

“We need to be heard; this is the time. We’re trying to make history together,” says Rimbao, who has no demographic advantage in a riding where over 60 per cent of the population is Jewish and white.

Rimbao’s only consolation from an ethnic vote perspective is that at over nine per cent, Filipinos lead the rest of the minority groups in a riding seen as a Liberal bastion.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][P]arties are still trying to figure out how to tap into [the Filipino] voter group.[/quote]

Also bereft of any ethnic affinity advantage is Julius Tiangson who hopes his experience serving different communities will make him the Conservative MP for the Mississauga Centre riding with a large immigrant population.

An active community leader, Tiangson is co-founder of the Gateway Centre for New Canadians, which focuses on the economic integration of newcomers. 

The only independent candidate in the running is Jesus “Jayjay” Cosico from Nepean, Ottawa. A former politician in the Philippines, he seeks to be the voice for “pro-life” issues in Parliament.

With a community far from mature in understanding Canada’s political process, Laquian says parties are still trying to figure out how to tap into this voter group. Fielding Filipino candidates is just one of the arrows in their quivers.

Pagtakhan believes Filipino Canadians are actually far more interested and involved in Canadian politics than the overall population.

“We can persuade even more to participate when we succeed in lending credibility to the nobility of politics as a means to make salutary differences in the life of fellow Canadians,” he says, adding, “Yes, it is a tall order.”


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post

 

by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Toronto, Ontario

By now the Liberal candidates for the predominantly visible minority ridings of Scarborough have grown used to party strategists lavishing attention on them. They are on the frontline for the bitter battle for Greater Toronto Area (GTA) votes during the current federal campaign and leader Justin Trudeau has already swung through their ridings several times to lend them star power.

But they were in for a surprise Tuesday when Trudeau’s entourage rolled into a manufacturing plant in the Scarborough Centre riding.

A day after stock markets tanked and the loonie fell to an 11-year low, Trudeau was in the Toronto suburbs to announce his economic credentials in comparison to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s. Issues closer to the communities in this inner city Toronto suburb could wait.

On display was his economic team alongside former Prime Minister Paul Martin in an unabashed attempt to remind voters his party’s record in balancing budgets. As finance minister in Jean Chretien’s government, Martin oversaw the elimination of the federal deficit.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Trudeau said, "Growing the economy is a team sport. So is governing the country."[/quote]

Introducing his diverse set of economic leaders comprising of former federal and provincial economic ministers, entrepreneurs and experts in First Nations governance and natural resources, Trudeau said, "Growing the economy is a team sport. So is governing the country."

Getting into the competitive spirit of sport, he said if the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Thomas Mulcair could tout former Saskatchewan finance minister Andrew Thomson as someone who could balance a budget, he could do better with Ralph Goodale from the same province. He described Goodale as, "the last Canadian finance minister to ever run a surplus."

Apart from Goodale, prominent names in his team who formed the backdrop included Scott Brison, John McCallum, Chrystia Freeland, Jean-Yves Duclos and Bill Morneau.

The others were Jessie Adcock, Leona Alleslev, Navdeep Bains, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Randy Boissonnault, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Jim Carr, François-Philippe Champagne, Karine Desjardins, Emmanuel Dubourg, Jean-Yves Duclos, Judy Foote, Marc Garneau, Anthony Housefather, Linda Lapointe, MaryAnn Mihychuk, Robert Morrissey, Marwah Rizqy, Kim Rudd, Brenda Shanahan, Francesco Sorbara, Claude Thibault, Adam Veilleux, Jonathan Wilkinson, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Lawrence Woo.

The odd man out in this ensemble was Harjit Sajjan, the soldier and former police officer who is neither a local candidate (he is contesting from Vancouver South in distant B.C.) or a member of the economic team.

Martin praised Trudeau for recruiting candidates (pictured above) with strong economic backgrounds. "They are certainly of a quality that none of our opponents can match. It is a team that is experienced, able, proven and ready," he said.

‘Lone wolf prime minister’

This emphasis on “the team” was further driven home when Trudeau took a dig at Harper. "For 10 years, we've had a lone wolf prime minister. Stephen Harper's economic team can fit in a very small room. All he needs is one chair and a mirror. I see things differently."

Also venturing into Conservative strongholds in Ontario on Tuesday to boast of economic credentials was Mulcair.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Mulcair made a definitive promise. “Our first budget will be a balanced budget."[/quote]

While Trudeau said achieving balanced budgets under his watch will depend on the "size of the mess" left behind by Harper, Mulcair made a definitive promise. “Our first budget will be a balanced budget," he said while campaigning in Hamilton on the outer edge of the GTA.

Like Trudeau, Mulcair also used a manufacturing unit as a backdrop and repeated his plan to cut the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent, promising a new timeframe of two years.

He promised to create "good jobs" in contrast to the "part-time, low-wage, precarious jobs" created under the Conservative government.

"Small and medium-sized businesses across our country account for 80 per cent of the new jobs that are created in the private sector. They are the job creators in our country."

Campaigning in Quebec City, Harper said the Liberals and the NDP are proposing high tax plans at a time of "renewed global instability." He said the Conservatives will continue to promise low taxes and their plan also includes balanced budgets.

"You do not run around and change your plans based on daily market news. You have a long-term plan and you stick to it," Harper said.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015 14:47

Adler Won’t Apologize for Holocaust Reference

Written by

by Janice Dickson

Conservative candidate Mark Adler is defending a reference to the Holocaust on his campaign signage, which has led to claims that he’s exploiting an atrocity to win votes in the Toronto riding of York Centre.

A photo of one of Adler’s campaign signs has been making the rounds online; the sign makes the observation that he is “the son of a Holocaust survivor.” It caught the eye of The Walrus’ editor-in-chief Jonathan Kay, who posted photos of the sign on Twitter Sunday.

“Who needs Yad Vashem when Holocaust awareness is now being promoted on partisan Conservative signage?” Kay wrote on Twitter.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My father came to Canada after surviving the horrors of a Nazi death camp, and chose Canada based on the values that continue to unite us: democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.” - Mark Adler[/quote]

In a statement to iPolitics, Adler — who didn’t directly address the criticism of his sign — said that throughout his life he’s advocated for Holocaust remembrance, “so that all Canadians will remember the great evil of the Second World War and never forget.”

“My father came to Canada after surviving the horrors of a Nazi death camp, and chose Canada based on the values that continue to unite us: democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” wrote Adler.

Adler said he is proud to serve Canada and deliver on the priorities of residents in York Centre “including advocacy for the security of the state of Israel, and the promotion of democratic values abroad,” and that he shares the concern of residents who are alarmed by the global campaign to isolate and denounce Israel, and “the moral relativism that was embraced by past governments who equivocated on the defense of the Jewish state.

“I am proud of my family heritage, and will never forget the sacrifice of my forefathers who faced persecution simply because of their faith.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Former Liberal MP Raymonde] Folco told The CJN that it’s “disgusting” for Adler to use the Holocaust “for personal ends” and to try to “profit” from it.[/quote]

Adler, who has claimed that he is “the first child of a Holocaust survivor ever to be elected as an MP,” learned Monday from The Canadian Jewish News that the distinction actually belongs to former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco, who was elected to Parliament in 1997.

“Mme. Folco, like my family, faced unspeakable atrocities, and we will never forget the somber story that unites our experience. That is why I am doubly resolved to continue to be a steadfast defender of Israel, and champion of freedom for those facing persecution in an increasingly insecure world,” said Adler. 

Folco told The CJN that it’s “disgusting” for Adler to use the Holocaust “for personal ends” and to try to “profit” from it.

“Whether he is the first or 15th, I should think it is your record that matters: what you’ve done and what you intend to do for Canadians, when elected,” she told The CJN.


Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

by Frank Graves

This week’s poll numbers drive home the important role debates could play in Campaign 2015. They also point to a tactical bind limiting the expansion prospects of the New Democrat and Liberal vote — and broad support for at least one controversial plank in the Harper Conservatives’ economic strategy.

As the charts show, the race remains locked in a very tight three-way race. The NDP appears to have plateaued, but still hangs on to a slight lead over a pretty moribund Conservative party. The Liberals are showing signs of life and may be closing the gap a little.

The Maclean’s leaders’ debate did move the dial somewhat, but the effects dissipated as we got further away from the event. The debate’s short term impact seemed to help Justin Trudeau and the Liberals and gave a temporary boost to Elizabeth May and the Green Party. We suspect that it will take more concerted communication and exposure to sustain and build on these effects.

That’s one reason why the future of the debates — particularly the English consortium debate, which was viewed by some 10 million Canadians last time — is so important.

While overall scores for the direction of the federal government and the country are horrible and approaching historical nadirs, the fractures across social class, gender and partisanship may be even more revealing.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The NDP has emerged as the rallying point for those who are extremely disaffected and most committed to change. It may also be the case that the NDP’s blunter, progressive position on Bill C-51 has been an important ingredient in its success.[/quote]

While only small minorities outside of the Tory base think the government is moving in the right direction, the incidence of satisfaction is twice as high for Liberal and Green supporters as for the NDP. This gap is also reflected in the demographic constituency for the NDP, which has risen on the support of the university educated, women and age cohorts outside of seniors. These are precisely the groups which show the highest disaffection with the government.

The NDP has emerged as the rallying point for those who are extremely disaffected and most committed to change. It may also be the case that the NDP’s blunter, progressive position on Bill C-51 has been an important ingredient in its success. The issue of future debates must therefore be considered with caution in light of these dynamics; the current and available constituency for the NDP is not in tune with the party’s current position on the consortium debate.

Flip-flopping between NDPs and Liberals

Looking at voters’ expressed second choices, we see a sharp strategic dilemma emerging for both the NDP and the Liberals. The two parties have almost symmetrical second-choice preferences. The NDP’s biggest source of exposure is the Liberal party; the Liberals’ biggest source of exposure is the NDP. Their best opportunities for growth lie in drawing support away from each other.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]This week, we asked Canadians for their thoughts on the August 6 leaders’ debate. Long story short: nobody won. Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau did well, but the clear winner of the debate was ‘none of the above’.[/quote]

The voters who are open to supporting either the New Democrats or Liberals make up what we refer to as the ‘promiscuous progressive’ segment. These are voters who are focused on deposing the current government — but are not committed to any one party. They consider a change of government to be job one. Shifting their support back and forth between the NDP and Liberal parties does little to affect the Conservatives’ constituency — and may, because of the vagaries of vote-splitting, reduce the prospects for a change of government.

The political arithmetic is obvious. There is an almost perfect symmetry in these floating voters — roughly 40 per cent of both NDP and Liberal supporters who could switch to the other party. Moving votes from the Liberal to NDP column, or the other way around, still leaves the Conservative vote intact.

Even though potential Conservative defectors make up a much smaller pool, it may be a more worthwhile strategy for the Liberals and New Democrats to work on enticing centre-right voters with a message that change is possible. Roughly 15 per cent of Conservative supporters would consider voting for either the NDP or Liberal party. It’s a smaller pool to fish in, but it does hold open the possibility of narrowing the Conservative vote. This strategic conundrum links in to Canadians’ attitudes toward coalition government — attitudes which are very positive overall (we’ll tell you all about it in next week’s poll).

No winners in first leaders' debate

This week, we asked Canadians for their thoughts on the August 6 leaders’ debate. Long story short: nobody won. Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau did well, but the clear winner of the debate was ‘none of the above’.

On the issue of further debates, we see some interesting results on the question of who should or should not attend.

Clear majorities of Green, NDP and Liberal supporters say all four federalist leaders should be present for all debates. These results suggest that Mr. Mulcair needs to be cautious when it comes to the debate around the debates. He appeals to Canadians because he’s tapping into discontent with the Harper government. In the case of the traditional English-language TV consortium debate, Mulcair does not want to see himself in the same box as Harper — especially given that 81 per cent of his own supporters think he should participate in all the debates.

We understand why the NDP might not want the Green Party present at the debates; the NDP and the Greens are running toe-to-toe in some ridings in British Columbia. But refusing to debate the Green Party would, at best, deny Elizabeth May one to two seats — a generous estimate. Those promiscuous progressives voters are a highly fluid group, so the potential downside to not participating in all debates outweighs the upside.

Addressing the issues

We also asked Canadians which parties they feel are best poised to address a number of different issues. Looking at what is consistently ranked as the most important election issue — the economy — responses almost perfectly mirror vote intention. Clear majorities believe it is their chosen party that is in the best position to lead the economy (with the exception of Green Party supporters, who would seem to be more comfortable with the NDP taking charge).

Interestingly, the Green Party leads on environmental issues, suggesting that Elizabeth May has done very well in terms of presenting herself as the most committed voice on what has become an orphaned issue. The Liberals are in the hunt on economic and social issues but might want to redress their clear gap on environmental issues — where they’re trailing everyone, including the Conservative party. The NDP has a firm advantage on social issues and holds a slight lead on restoring middle class progress.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]s the moral panic associated with the shooting on Parliament Hill and ISIS atrocities fades, so has support for a strengthened security agenda.[/quote]

Stephen Harper does not have a clear advantage on any of these issues; his best option at this point may to hammer away at issues related to security and terrorism, which generally have worked well for him in the past. But as the moral panic associated with the shooting on Parliament Hill and ISIS atrocities fades, so has support for a strengthened security agenda.

Trade has never been a particularly polarizing issue for Canadians — at least not since the 1990s. Indeed, 8 in ten Canadians support the concept of free trade in North America and a clear majority would support some form of pan-American free trade agreement. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a special case in that the agreement is still being negotiated and details have not been made public. So voters have been left to speculate on the basis of online rumours — some plausible, some downright silly. The Harper government has done little to address these concerns.

Nevertheless, by a margin of nearly two-to-one, Canadians appear to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Support is fairly tepid (43 per cent of Canadians ‘somewhat’ support the agreement), which suggests that many Canadians don’t feel sufficiently informed to take a firm stance one way or the other. The TPP talks are rolling out against a backdrop of softening support for trade liberalization in general, undoubtedly linked to rising economic anxieties. Canadians remain solidly pro-trade but are less enthusiastic than they were in the early days of the century.


Frank Graves is founder and president of EKOS Polling.

Methodology:

This study draws on data from two separate surveys, both of which were conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for the first survey are June 30-July 7, 2015. In total, a random sample of 2,160 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The field dates for second survey are August 5-11, 2015. In total, a random sample of 3,055 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and educational attainment to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 15:17

The Long Ascent of Tom Mulcair

Written by

by L. Ian MacDonald

There are touchstones in Tom Mulcair’s life, events that come full circle.

When he first ran for the Quebec legislature in the suburban Laval seat of Chomedey in 1994, he was returning to the neighbourhood where he grew up.

“On my first day of door-knocking,” he wrote in his new autobiography, Strength of Conviction, “I went back and walked my old Gazette delivery route!”

When he launched the French and English versions of the book in Montreal Monday evening, he chose a bar called Les Bobards on St. Laurent Blvd., in the Plateau Mont-Royal, where he had held his victory party in 2007 when he won the federal by-election in Outremont. Once again, full circle.

The joint was jumping, crowded with the personal and professional contacts of a lifetime — friends from his youth in suburban Montreal, colleagues from McGill Law School, staffers from the National Assembly who are with him still as Opposition leader in Ottawa.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“One thing that stands out about Tom is his loyalty to his friends.” - Geoff Chambers[/quote]

Geoff Chambers, for example, has known Mulcair since they worked together at Alliance Quebec, the minority English-language activist group, back in 1983.

Chambers was sitting at the bar with his uncle, Charles Taylor — McGill professor, co-author of Quebec’s landmark 2008 report on reasonable accommodation of ethnic minorities, and lifetime NDP activist. Chuck Taylor famously ran and lost to a guy named Pierre Trudeau in Mount Royal back in 1965. His role at Les Bobards was to introduce Mulcair.

“One thing that stands out about Tom,” said Chambers, “is his loyalty to his friends.”

Humble beginnings

It probably begins with family. Mulcair was the second oldest of 10 kids in a rambunctious and roaring Irish-Catholic family, the big brother to eight siblings. “In a large family,” he wrote, “as anyone who was raised in one can attest, you learn to take your responsibilities early. The older children help to bring up the younger ones.”

His parents’ struggles to make ends meet can only be imagined. Mulcair’s father had attended Loyola, a Jesuit high school for boys, and his son easily passed the entrance exam. But here there was no full circle — his father informed him the family couldn’t afford the tuition, then less than $1,000 per year.

(My family couldn’t afford it either — but then I was only the second of two children, not the second of 10.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Mulcair and his wife's] backgrounds could not have been more different — he came from a struggling Irish-Catholic family, she from an affluent Jewish family from the well-to-do Paris neighbourhood of Neuilly. Her people, originally from Turkey, were Sephardic Jews and Holocaust survivors.[/quote]

When he was 10 and 12 years old, Mulcair had paper routes with the Montreal Star and The Gazette. As a 14-year old high school student at Laval Catholic, Mulcair worked a summer job for $1.25 an hour at a clothing factory in Montreal’s schmatte district.

This also came full circle on Monday, in a way; the schmatte guys have lunch at Schwartz’s and dinner at Moishe’s, just a few blocks south of les Bobards on St-Laurent. Over smoked meat at lunch and steaks at dinner they can be overheard complaining about their costs — including the help.

As a student at McGill, Mulcair paid his way through law school by working summers in the construction industry, tarring roofs. Just the way to get through a hot Montreal summer.

After completing his first year of law, in the summer of 1974, he met a French girl from Paris at a friend’s wedding. Mulcair and Catherine Pinhas have been together ever since. Their backgrounds could not have been more different — he came from a struggling Irish-Catholic family, she from an affluent Jewish family from the well-to-do Paris neighbourhood of Neuilly. Her people, originally from Turkey, were Sephardic Jews and Holocaust survivors. The couple has two sons, both graduates of McGill, one a cop and the other a college professor.

Campaign plugs and some omissions

Two things stand about the first half of Mulcair’s book. One is that it’s completely authentic, an account not only of his formative years but of a vanished place and time — English-Catholic Montreal in the middle of the 20th century.

The other is that Mulcair obviously wrote it himself, because the voice is entirely his. He wrote on his BlackBerry, on planes, trains and automobiles. (Quite an endorsement of the BlackBerry keyboard. I’ve written columns on mine, but a book? That might be a first.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It’s only when Mulcair moves on to talk about his party leadership that his book turns into a campaign pamphlet, with the usual pre-election posturing and positioning.[/quote]

Mulcair also tells a compelling story about his years in Quebec City and his eventual recruitment by Jack Layton and the NDP. It didn’t end well between Mulcair and Jean Charest in Quebec. As Environment and Parks minister in 2006, Mulcair opposed the development of Mont-Orford Park in Charest’s backyard in the Eastern Townships. Charest called him in and the two men had a conversation that went something like this: You’re demoted. No, I quit. In the end, no development ever went ahead.

Months later, Mulcair and Catherine had dinner with Layton and Olivia Chow at Mon Village, in Hudson, where Layton grew up. The restaurant is a well-known stop on the road between Montreal and Ottawa and — full circle again — it was there that Mulcair met Layton’s former principal secretary, Brad Lavigne, and persuaded him to return as his senior campaign adviser.

It’s only when Mulcair moves on to talk about his party leadership that his book turns into a campaign pamphlet, with the usual pre-election posturing and positioning. For example, in a chapter on the 1995 Quebec referendum, there’s a conspicuous insert on the NDP’s 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration and Mulcair’s support of a 50 + 1 Yes vote being enough to break up the country.

“One of the worst mistakes we can make is to deceive the voters that in voting Yes they are voting for something else,” he writes. “Some say it would be unthinkable to let the country break up on a vote of 50 per cent + 1 … I say it would be unconscionable to let our relationships as Canadians degenerate that far.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][H]e wasn’t improvising or thinking out loud over St.-Jean-Baptiste, when he said he was “proud” of the Sherbrooke Declaration. It’s in his book.[/quote]

So, he wasn’t improvising or thinking out loud over St.-Jean-Baptiste, when he said he was “proud” of the Sherbrooke Declaration. It’s in his book. And while this position might help Mulcair on the margins with the soft nationalist vote in Quebec, it will hurt the NDP in the rest of Canada, where there is very little support for the idea of repealing the 2000 Clarity Act requiring a clear majority to a clear question.

And there are omissions. There is a reference to former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt pushing building developments harmful to the environment. Having raised this, Mulcair passed on the opportunity to recount how Vaillancourt once offered him a mysterious envelope — a suspected bribe, which Mulcair refused.

He also wrote about how, when he left the Charest government, “the Conservatives came calling.” He mentioned “a senior Conservative who was an old friend from Quebec City.” This would have been Lawrence Cannon, then the senior Quebec political minister in the Harper government. They met at the Garrison Club in Quebec City, and Cannon was interested in Mulcair joining the Conservatives as a candidate.

Mulcair wrote that he was more interested at the time in becoming chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). “I had put forward my name and had been short-listed to head the agency.”

Had the Conservatives appointed him to head the NRTEE — had they not shut it down two years ago, Mulcair never would have become NDP leader. He never would have become leader of the Official Opposition. And Stephen Harper would not now be trailing him in most polls. Full circle.


L. Ian MacDonald is editor of Policy, the bi-monthly magazine of Canadian politics and public policy. He is the author of five books. He served as chief speechwriter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney from 1985-88, and later as head of the public affairs division of the Canadian Embassy in Washington from 1992-94. The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

Published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

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