Politics

by Kyle Duggan

Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is running again for federal politics in Toronto, but the Trinity-Spadina riding she’s won handily before has been redistricted to Spadina-Fort York.

Anticipating Chow’s announcement, Liberal supporters at the Eglinton-Lawrence nomination meeting on Sunday were happy to point out that her mayoral election results in the municipal wards inside Spadina-Fort York won’t necessarily buoy the NDP.

John Tory, they said, actually won or came close in wards she should’ve won easily.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While Chow did the best in downtown wards, and came first in wards 14, 18, and 19, factoring in the federal redistricting borders cuts her vote-share significantly.[/quote]

Trinity-Spadina, was a long time battleground between the NDP and Liberals, and is currently held by Liberal MP Adam Vaughn. He won it in a byelection last year against one of Chow’s top staff members after Chow had stepped down to run municipally.

The new federal riding cuts across wards 19, 20, 27 and 28 – along with a sliver of Ward 14.

While Chow did the best in downtown wards, and came first in wards 14, 18, and 19, factoring in the federal redistricting borders cuts her vote-share significantly.

An analysis of the election data — looking only at the municipal polling districts that fall into the new federal riding — shows that Tory indeed beat Chow in the area. But not by a landslide.

Vote counts total for Tory at 16,645 and Chow at 12,873. Doug Ford came in distant third at 6,740.

Some polling districts bridge the federal riding’s borders, muddying the results a little. Even with those removed from the total, though, the results don’t change much.

Before we jump to conclusions, a few caveats:

  • If media reports from the election are to be believed, many voters turned to Tory purely in an effort to make sure Ford didn’t win.
  • City elections often have much less voter interest – often lower than the 50 per cent mark. That said, Toronto’s election turn-out sky-rocketed to 60 per cent in 2014.
  • Tory, the former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, doesn’t necessarily substitute well for Vaughn.

Also, municipal and federal elections also turn on entirely different issues. No federal candidates, for instance, are campaigning to wage a war on Toronto’s raccoons. Not yet, anyway.


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

With October’s federal elections inching closer, there will be a steady stream of coverage in mainstream newspapers across the country of the candidates vying for a seat in Parliament. As journalists and newspaper editors put together these stories, Canadian researcher Erin Tolley is calling for them to give careful thought to how they depict candidates of visible-minority backgrounds.

Tolley, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Toronto, is the author of Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics, a book-length study set for release in November, which examines how race factors into news stories about politicians and political candidates.

The book includes empirical data she collected during the 2008 federal elections after studying and comparing a sample of over 1,000 news stories from 18 mainstream Canadian daily newspapers on both visible minority and white candidates, as well as candid interviews with political candidates, others working in politics, and journalists.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Visible-minority candidates] tend to have to “prove themselves” in ways their white counterparts do not.[/quote]

While Tolley maintains the book’s message is not that the media are racist – she finds absolutely no examples of blatant racism in her analysis – what Framed does is use media coverage of Canadian politics to underline the fact that race still matters in Canada.

Likely candidate or a long shot?

One particular area of focus Tolley spends a lot of time analyzing is how a candidate’s viability in the election run was framed. Were they considered likely to succeed or more of a long shot?

If the candidate was an incumbent (currently holding the seat in Parliament), no matter whether he or she was a visible minority or not, Tolley finds the coverage to be relatively the same. If the person was a non-incumbent, however, the differences in coverage become apparent.

“What I found is if you’re a visible-minority non-incumbent you’re portrayed as a long shot, an unlikely winner – basically you don’t have a hope,” explains Tolley. This wasn’t the case for white non-incumbents.

This finding speaks to a certain level of skepticism that exists around visible-minority candidates, she adds. They tend to have to “prove themselves” in ways their white counterparts do not.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Tolley finds the notions of visible-minority candidates only being able to serve people from their own ethnic group and unable to understand the issues of other Canadians concerning. White candidates, she says, don’t face this challenge.[/quote]

“When I talked to political strategists from the party, people who worked on the campaigns, they said, ‘Yes, they need to meet a higher bar,’” explains Tolley. “They’re going to be met with skepticism – they’re going to have to be better and to be stronger in order to get nominated and in order to win.”

Pigeonholed on the issues

Where Tolley also finds stark differences in coverage is in the types of issues visible minorities seem to be most connected to. While they are often quoted in stories on immigration policy, multiculturalism or poverty – all “so-called minority issues,” as Tolley refers to them – their voices are often absent from stories about more “pressing” issues like the economy and the environment.

“Some people said to me, ‘Well, that makes sense because probably visible minorities don’t care as much about those issues,’” recalls Tolley. “[But] when I talked to visible-minority candidates about their issue priorities, many of them talked about the economy – things like taxes, finding good jobs, having credentials recognized, that sort of thing – and that doesn’t come out in their media coverage.”

Tolley finds the notions of visible-minority candidates only being able to serve people from their own ethnic group and unable to understand the issues of other Canadians concerning. White candidates, she says, don’t face this challenge, as they are often positioned as having broad reach and the ability to “woo” or “court” the ethnic vote.

“No one ever talks about the fact that white candidates also appeal to white voters. I mean, no one would write that,” Tolley says. “No one even describes white candidates as ‘white candidates’ or really talks about where they were born. Whiteness is basically put forward as the default and therefore not worthy of being mentioned, whereas minority or immigrant background is something that is covered because it is seen to be outside the norm or atypical, and therefore newsworthy.”

Changing pace

With the upcoming elections, there is still time for media outlets to consider Tolley’s research in their approach to the stories that they run. Everything from picture and headline choice to inclusion of socio-demographic background and whether a “diversity” angle is relevant to a story or not should be considered, she advises.

But most importantly, Tolley says, people – not just the media, but all Canadians – need to be open to the idea of talking about race, a subject she found during her research many are still uncomfortable with.

“Some of my interviewees talked about the fact that they are colour-blind – they don’t see colour,” she explains. “I said instead of talking about ‘colour-blindness,’ we should think more about the fact that we’ve been mute in conversations about race. We haven’t had mature discussions about it.”

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by Frank Graves

The political landscape appears to be shifting in subtle but important ways. The Liberals seem to have stopped the bleeding and are now statistically tied with the floundering Conservatives who are over 12 points back from their majority achievement in 2011.

The NDP continues to hold on to a narrow but significant lead which would be more decisive save for the entry of Gilles Duceppe into the Quebec race. An elevated ‘other’ reflects dissatisfaction with any of the above and perhaps those who would prefer a ‘more than one party’ answer.

The NDP rise continues to be the most impressive feature of our recent time series data, but the declines of the Conservatives and the Liberals have also pretty clear over the past month. The Liberals, however, have shown a rebound whereas the Conservatives are once again headed downward.

There is nothing dramatically different in the regional patterns but a few points are in order:

  • The NDP strength is distributed across the country but they would have good seat efficiency in Quebec and British Columbia.
  • The tight three-way race in Ontario remains the critical unknown, but we can now certify the NDP rise there as more than an overnight sensation.
  • The Liberals are looking competitive in Quebec, but the Bloc Québécois is the big question mark. Will their ascension continue? If not, that will favour the NDP as the default option. The Conservatives appear to be receding badly in Quebec as the terror and culture themes that revitalized them fade from public priority.

 

The NDP continues to do well across the demographic spectrum but their concentration with younger voters may be a concern in terms of turnout. The Liberal vote shows almost no significant differences across age or gender. The NDP’s continued advantage with university educated voters remains a major and revealing asset.

Finally, the fate of two smaller parties is also up in the air. The Green Party has fallen back and really needs something to get back in the fray. There is a big difference between 10 points and eight points, particularly in pivotal ridings where they could aspire to be the best non-Conservative choice for progressive voters. The Bloc Québécois has definitely been invigorated by the return of Gilles Duceppe and this has been largely at the expense of the NDP. This dynamic will be important to watch in coming months.

The Canada Day Effect?

Turning to directional measures, we see a slight improvement in Canadians’ satisfaction with where their government is headed. There are a number of factors that could be driving this modest reversal, but the most likely explanation is that Canada Day, with its myriad of celebrations endless displays of red and white, has re-kindled Canadians’ appreciation for the country in which they live – at least for the time being. However, this is not the first time that we have seen a temporary Canada Day boost and the perceived direction of both the country and its government are still very poor by historical standards. 

Liberals improve standing on best/clearest plan

Finally, we updated our tracking on which party holds the best and clearest plan. While no party holds a distinct advantage here, it is notable that the Liberal Party has succeeded in improving its standing by two to four points on all three indicators. While none of these improvements on their own is statistically significant, the fact that the party has improved its reputation across the board is highly noteworthy. Indeed, it appears that the Liberals have managed to raise the volume and clarity of their plans for Canadians and this previously muted connection was probably as or more important than any other factor in their fall from voter grace over the past few months. 

In Conclusion

The newly tightened political landscape provides a fascinating mix of opportunity and risk for the political parties as we enter the vacation and barbeque season. Here are the three most important points to bear in mind:

The NDP rise is real and, while it has plateaued, it leaves the NDP with a modest but clear advantage. This advantage is reinforced by their leader’s clear lead on approval, a good demographic and regional mix of likely voters, and a concentration of voters in some regions which will yield seat dividends.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Conservatives, while insignificantly ahead of the Liberals, are the party with the sternest challenges ahead. They have extremely scant second choice consideration and, as such, they have very meagre room to grow.[/quote]

The Liberals appear to be in recovery and can legitimately aspire to close the modest gap they now suffer. Their leader scores well and more importantly, they are showing significant improvement on getting their messages about the future out. As with the NDP, the Liberals have ample head room in terms of second choice to aspire to form government.

The Conservatives, while insignificantly ahead of the Liberals, are the party with the sternest challenges ahead. They have extremely scant second choice consideration and, as such, they have very meagre room to grow. Their leader has by far the lowest approval ratings, the economy is stalled, and they are mired at 27 points, more than 12 points short of their result in 2011 election. They have virtually no political capital left to spend if they encounter any further missteps. It is really hard to imagine what rabbits they have left to pull out of a pretty empty hat at this stage.

In closing, the directional, approval, and best plan numbers show the same patterns of a very tight race with a clear NDP lead, but the Conservatives and Liberals are basically tied for second and are not far back. The overall sense we have is that nothing is very clear in terms of next fall, but barring another security shock, it is increasingly hard to see a path to victory for the Conservative Party.

Approval Ratings

 


 


Frank Graves is founder and president of EKOS Polling.

Methodology

This study was 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 this survey are June 24-28, 2015. In total, a random sample of 1,752 Canadian adults aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.3 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.

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

If the New Democratic Party (NDP) seeks to truly engage ethnic and racialized communities in this October’s federal election, it needs to borrow a page from former leader Jack Layton’s legacy.

“Jack Layton, before there was any hope of winning any sort of racialized riding, would come out to events and speak on issues that matter,” deputy leader of the Ontario NDP, Jagmeet Singh, told New Canadian Media during a dinner the party held in Scarborough Monday night to mix and mingle with ethnic media outlets representing more than 20 diaspora communities. “[He’d] speak on human rights and take positions on human rights that were actually in line with the community wanted.”

Sincerity Is Key

Singh, who was elected in the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton in the 2011 provincial election, is known for being vocal about human rights and issues affecting racialized communities – most recently police carding. He says it’s important for ethnic communities to not buy into the “false sense of support” that comes from politicians attending particular cultural events when they’re on the campaign trail.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Engaging diverse communities in meaningful and respectful ways continues to be an area that Canada’s various levels of government need to become better at.[/quote]

“[T]here’s no doubt that political parties will come just at the eve of an election and show up just at the right time and shake hands with the right people and get the right pictures just to show that they are in support of that community,” he says. “You have to actually look into what they say, what policies they bring forward, what is their message that actually connects with the community.”

Andrea Horwath, NDP leader in Ontario, says her party has a great opportunity in the upcoming election to do the type of engagement work Singh speaks of across the country – starting with the diversity of the candidates themselves.

“I know the slate of candidates that we have has got a number of people that reflect diverse communities and that’s very exciting, but it’s a matter of making sure that it’s not a matter of those candidates in isolation,” she told New Canadian Media. 

Making Real Inroads

Engaging diverse communities in meaningful and respectful ways continues to be an area that Canada’s various levels of government need to become better at. Horwath spoke of meeting with a community group earlier that afternoon that serves Spanish-speaking people in North Toronto and their concerns with the government around a lack of engagement in the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games coming to Toronto in July.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It’s important for any political party to not only encourage diversity amongst their candidates but also amongst those candidates’ staff members.[/quote]

“That’s a failure of the government to recognize not only an opportunity, but an obligation, quite frankly,” Horwath says. “If you’re going to host the Pan American Games and the Parapan American Games, then you have to actually be respectful of those people whose cultures and languages who [are reflected].”

Viresh Fernando, a self-claimed “political junkie” and resident of Toronto’s Thorncliffe community – where, according to Statistics Canada, 71 per cent of the population’s first language is neither English nor French – says the best tool politicians could use to engage ethnic communities is intimate, meaningful dialogue.

“Stop listening to self-appointed leaders and really sit down for a couple of hours with a small group of people and let them talk to you and keep asking them questions without having your handlers around you,” he says. In fact, he points out that during the NDP’s dinner event he would have liked to see Horwath circulate more from table to table during dinner and speak informally to the various ethnic media and community members in the room.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]More involvement in the system is something many representatives of the ethnic media collectively agreed they’d like to see.[/quote]

Staff, Media Engagement Needs to Become More Diverse

Further to that, Fernando points out it’s important for any political party to not only encourage diversity amongst their candidates but also amongst those candidates’ staff members. “The political staff tend not to represent the ethnic communities at all,” he says.

Fernando added that he believes why Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne encountered such a backlash from various ethnic communities around her recent sex-ed curriculum – something many members of the media asked Horwath for her take on during the event’s press scrum – was due to a lack of understanding. If Wynne had more diverse voices on her staff, she may not be spending $1.8 million on communication messages around the curriculum, Fernando says.

More involvement in the system is something many representatives of the ethnic media collectively agreed they’d like to see.

“We want to be part of the system, someone who can represent us,” said Mohamed Busuri of the Somali Canadian Times.

“We encourage participation of members of the Filipino community in politics to show the strength in our community,” agreed Rose Tijam, president of the Philippine Press Club, adding, “Filipinos don’t want anything different from mainstream Canadians – work, jobs, housing.”

As the NDP continues to ramp up its engagement with diverse communities at both the political and federal levels with events like this one, there is one thing Fernando warns it and other parties should never do on the campaign trail: “Please don’t insult people by dressing in their costumes . . . do not engage in tokenism.”

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by Susan Korah (@waterlilypool) in Ottawa, Ontario

Deepak Obhrai, Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Calgary East and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, has reason to be optimistic about the future – or at least his own political future.

Just a few weeks ago, June 2 marked 18 years since he was first elected, making him the longest-serving visible minority MP in the 41st Parliament of Canada.

Born in Tanzania to South Asian parents, Obhrai immigrated to Canada at the age of 27, and 20 years later, contested his first election in 1997. Re-elected five more times since then, he remains unfazed by the crushing defeat of the Conservative party by the NDP in the May 4 provincial election in his home territory of Alberta.

This was when the proverbial 'orange wave' swept over the heartland of conservative Canada, ending 44 continuous years with the Tories in power and defeating the longest-serving party in provincial politics.

In the early days after this historic defeat, Obhrai conceded that this could be a game-changer and that safe (Conservative) seats could no longer be considered safe.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In Alberta, the people were extremely tired of the culture of entitlement that the Tories came to have. They turned to the NDP because there was no alternative.” - Deepak Obhrai[/quote]

But in a recent interview with New Canadian Media, Obhrai said he had no doubts about his own prospects. Although Tory stalwarts such as John Baird and Peter MacKay have opted out of the race, Obhrai is determined to run again and win the newly created riding of Calgary Forest Lawn.

“I was nominated (as the Conservative candidate) in January,” he said. “Nobody came forward to challenge me, even though it was an open nomination.” 

Asked about the secret of his longevity and his positive attitude to the future when others are contemplating their political mortality, he said, “I have the confidence of the people and the party in my riding.” 

On the Orange Wave 

“In Alberta, the people were extremely tired of the culture of entitlement that the Tories came to have,” he said. “They turned to the NDP because there was no alternative. It’s not that they necessarily agreed with the policies of the NDP, but they wanted to send a message to the ruling party.” 

How might the federal Tories ensure that the same thing does not happen in the upcoming election? 

“We need to make sure that we don’t upset the people,” he said. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]About Bill S-7 – entitled “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” and heavily criticized by ethnic minority groups as pointing fingers at certain cultures – Obhrai said that it did not target any specific culture or ethnic group.[/quote]

Obhrai insisted that certain controversial bills passed by the current government had the support of the people of Canada and were not upsetting to the majority. 

“It’s the left-leaning media making a noise,” he said, when asked specifically about Bill C-51, for which he and the majority of parliamentarians voted. 

“We need to combat new threats that are happening today and we need new tools for this,” he said in defence of this bill. 

About Bill S-7 – entitled “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” and heavily criticized by ethnic minority groups as pointing fingers at certain cultures – Obhrai said that it did not target any specific culture or ethnic group.

“It’s restoring the human rights of all individuals and applies to all Canadians.”

On Criticism of Harper’s Foreign Policies 

Obhrai is reputed to be one of the architects of Canada’s foreign policy. In 2013, Embassy, an Ottawa-based newsweekly, named him one of the top people influencing Canadian foreign policy. He is quick to dismiss criticism of the Harper government’s foreign policy from media and opposition critics. 

“Trade trumps everything,” wrote John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail in an article dated January 31, 2014, adding that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has been folded back into Department of International Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) to implement this new economic diplomacy. 

Obhrai says the humanitarian element has not been smothered and that merging CIDA into DFATD is a matter of better coordination between the two.

We gave generously to Nepal,” he pointed out, referring to the recent devastating earthquake in South Asia.

He also claimed that by focusing on 25 countries, rather than spreading Canada’s development assistance too thin, it delivers better results to those in greatest need. 

On His Ethnic Background 

Although Obhrai takes obvious pride in the fact that he is the longest-serving visible minority MP in the current government, he is quick to point out that he represents all people regardless of their ethnic origin.

Still, his ethnicity and cultural background have had some impact on his political career.

For starters, his interest in running for political interest was sparked because of his background in community work. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Obhrai was the first parliamentarian in Canadian history to take his oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture, instead of the Bible.[/quote]

His riding, Calgary East, has a mixed population, with a sizeable visible minority component. 

“I started at the grassroots level and from there I built a base of support,” he said, referring to his work in such organizations as the India-Canada Association of Calgary. 

A significant landmark of his career was when he was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council on September 19, 2013. This is an elite status conferred on the inner circle of cabinet ministers and entitles the recipient to use the title ‘Honourable’ and retain the initials PC after one’s name for life. Obhrai was the first parliamentarian in Canadian history to take his oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture, instead of the Bible. 

His immediate family consists of his wife Neena, who is president of the Hindu Society of Calgary, three adult children Preeti, Kaajal and Aman and two grandchildren, all of whom he looks forward to sharing his adventures on the campaign trail with. 

What does his extended family think of his achievements? “I have extended family in Tanzania, Kenya, India and the U.K. and they are in awe of what I do,” he said, with a smile.

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by Kristie Smith

The Conservatives may have underestimated how much Canadians liked traditional media running the show, with new numbers from EKOS suggesting that not only do 74 per cent of Canadians want to see a major-network led debate, they want it even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to participate.

“This decision does not rest well with voters who see the traditional debates as a very important basis for voter choice and a healthy democratic process,” says EKOS President Frank Graves, citing that 62 per cent consider the debates to be important in deciding how to vote.

“While being deeply skeptical about the motives of the Prime Minister, and any parties that don’t think that all of the leaders should be present for all of the debates, the public overwhelmingly think the traditional debate should proceed, with or without Mr. Harper.”

Harper upset what had appeared to be a done deal when he announced in early May that he would not be taking part in the traditionally held leaders debate hosted by a consortium of television networks, including CTV, Global and Radio-Canada, saying he was open to taking part in up to five debates if other viable offers were made.

And some were. Debate invitations from Maclean’s, TVA, the Globe and Mail, Bloomberg and the Munk Debates have all been accepted by the Conservatives, who despite repeated attempts by the consortium to compromise, maintain they won’t participate.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“That debate has been such a large part of our electoral past, that if any one leader were to say they don’t want to do it then of course people are going to say, ‘well, that’s up to you’. It would be a mistake, I think for the prime minister to do that.” - Bob Rae[/quote]

The Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and Bloc Quebecois however have all agreed to a consortium debate that could unfold on a stage with an empty seat saved for the PM, although many observers assume Harper will break down and take his seat.

“That debate has been such a large part of our electoral past, that if any one leader were to say they don’t want to do it then of course people are going to say, ‘well, that’s up to you’. It would be a mistake, I think for the prime minister to do that,” says former federal Liberal leader and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae.

“I don’t think the public thinks highly of people who don’t bother to turn up.”

Respondents who identified as Liberals and New Democrats in particular were pleased with the old format, with approval ratings of 74 and 71 per cent respectively.

Their Conservative counterparts, however, express much lower support, although a majority — 46 per cent — of respondents still favour the old approach, versus 21 per cent of those who don’t like the format and 28 per cent who are neutral on the topic.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]When asked if, “by not participating in the network debates and going to smaller media organizations, Mr. Harper is bringing more open and innovative democracy to the leaders’ debate”, a whopping 67 per cent disagree and only 16 per cent agreed.[/quote]

The Liberal Party has promised that, if elected on October 19th, it will institute a national debate commission modelled on the U.S. Commission on Presidential Debates.

But the debates are an essential part of the electoral process, with the power to make or break some candidates, with failures like that of Michael Ignatieff in 2011 or successes like the subsequently elected NDP candidate Rachel Notley in Alberta.

“It helped to change their campaign,” says Wilfred Laurier and Guelph University political science professor and former Globe and Mail editor Geoffrey Stevens.

“It reinforced the strength of the NDP, it undermined the Progressive Conservatives and it convinced people watching the debates that they didn’t have to be afraid of the NDP. The debates showed that it was a safe vote, that these were not radicals or dangerous socialists, but people with heads screwed on tight in the right direction and a safe place to park your vote.”

Including the Green Party a Must

It’s clear that, no matter how you phrase it, Canadians are in disagreement with the prime minister. When asked if, “by not participating in the network debates and going to smaller media organizations, Mr. Harper is bringing more open and innovative democracy to the leaders’ debate”, a whopping 67 per cent disagree and only 16 per cent agreed.

The only clearer answer the numbers give is where Elizabeth May belongs in the debates and the answer is — at a resounding 81 per cent — on the stage with the other leaders.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In a democracy with any party running candidates, it’s really shocking that the Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, Munk and TVA think that it’s appropriate to construct a debate where a parliamentary party isn’t included.” - Elizabeth May[/quote]

While May will take part in the consortium debate, someone just needs to tell the other debate hosts, because none of them have invited her.

“I don’t know if I need to remind the Globe and Mail and the other outlets of how our Canadian democracy works but it is a Westminster parliamentary democracy,” says May, adding that Reform was given a voice when they weren’t even running candidates across the country, unlike the Greens now, so why shouldn’t she?

“In a democracy with any party running candidates, it’s really shocking that the Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, Munk and TVA think that it’s appropriate to construct a debate where a parliamentary party isn’t included.”


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Janice Dickson

Opposition to the Harper government’s planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism is staggering — with even the Prime Minister’s supporters strongly opposing its design and location, EKOS polling data shows.

Sixty-three per cent of those polled who intend to vote Conservative in the upcoming federal election oppose the memorial, a project of the Harper government that has been vigorously backed by senior Conservatives despite controversies about its location, its lack of architectural merit, cost and political symbolism.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Rarely do you see an idea that’s so clearly opposed by the public.” - Frank Graves, EKOS[/quote]

The iPolitics/EKOS poll shows that 77.4 per cent of Canadians strongly oppose the memorial and 82.7 per cent of residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) oppose it. In Canada and the NCR only four per cent polled strongly support the memorial.

Among non-Tory voters, 83 per cent who intend to vote Liberal oppose the project and 84 per cent of polled who intend to vote NDP oppose it. Among other supporters of national parties, opposition remains at the 83 per cent mark.

“Rarely do you see an idea that’s so clearly opposed by the public,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves.

Government Out of Touch

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, who has been among the memorial’s fiercest critics, said the new numbers only confirm what he’s been hearing.

“Most people, when they have learned of this project and where it’s going to be located and the process by which it’s been placed in this particular location, are against it,” said Dewar. “That’s a clear sign to the government that they’re out of touch with the public.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The controversial 5,000-square-metre structure would be located between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada building.[/quote]

Ottawa’s mayor, Jim Watson, criticized the location of the memorial and the National Capital Commission for not consulting with the City of Ottawa. Watson will be speaking to a motion related to the memorial at a city council meeting next Wednesday.

According to Graves, the “good news” for the government is that most Canadians are blissfully unaware of its plans to erect this giant monument on Ottawa’s historic Wellington Street. The controversial 5,000-square-metre structure would be located between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada building.

As the cost of the structure has ballooned to an estimated $5 million and the cost of the prime land has been estimated at $16 million, opposition to the project has galvanized.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This location will skilfully occlude that despised institution with a huge celebration of things arguably dear to the government’s re-election plans and ideologically consistent with their cold war era views of Godless commies.” - Frank Graves, EKOS[/quote]

In his analysis of the poll, Graves attributes the government’s determination to build the memorial on prime land that was set to be the site of a Justice Department building named after Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Tories’ antipathy toward the Supreme Court (and communists).

“This location will skilfully occlude that despised institution with a huge celebration of things arguably dear to the government’s re-election plans and ideologically consistent with their cold war era views of Godless commies,” writes Graves.

The poll shows that 63 per cent of Canadians have not heard of the planned memorial, but 61 per cent of NCR residents are aware of the plans.

EKOS asked respondents to review the design, which will feature 100,000,000 “memory squares” each representing a life lost to Communism regimes worldwide, and to describe in one word (see below) their reaction to the memorial.

Respondents were also asked to rank the priority of a new facility in the NCR – and among options – the victims of communism memorial was dead last.

Graves suggests that the federal government “had best hope the deal can be closed on this before the election because given the depth of opposition we suspect there will be a groundswell of protest that will probably jettison this ‘unnecessary’ and ‘wasteful’ project.”

Graves said that the Harper government is trying to appeal to the Ukrainian and Polish communities, in an effort to secure their votes. The memorial’s significance to victims of Chinese communism has been blurrier, given the Harper government’s generally cordial relationship with Beijing.

“The Ukrainian and Polish population is sizeable and they have vey stark memories of victims of communism and have legitimate reasons that should be celebrated. The trouble is those thing happened in other counties at different times and they’re really not relative to most Canadians,” he said.

This study involved an online only survey of 2,116 Canadians. The field dates for this survey are May 12-19, 2015. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca 

by Mark A. Cadiz (@markacadiz) in Toronto

Many Canadians boast about their country’s diversity. There is a sense of pride attached to it. Yet, when it comes to the foundation of Canada’s democracy, proportionate representation fails miserably.

From municipal levels straight up the parliamentary halls of Ottawa, the demographic remains largely the same — middle-aged, white males.

A study by macro economist, Kai L. Chan titled “Canada’s governing class: Who rules the country?”, reveals that as of September 2014 there were, “relative to the makeup of the [country’s] population, 107 ‘extra’ white males in Parliament, 64 ‘missing’ white females and 45 ‘missing’ minorities.”

 

“The numbers are the numbers . . . and the under-representation is relative to the general population,” Chan says. “I am not surprised by the findings, but it was interesting to note that women and minorities are equally under-represented relative to their levels in the population.”

Chan, a government and public policy professional who moved from China to Toronto when he was four years old, conducted the study to highlight the political issues he felt were important to address in the western world.

As he states in his study, since Parliament is the highest policymaking and political governing body, it is also the final decision maker when it comes to issues that affect minorities. He believes those decisions are at a high risk of being uninformed and may not be reflective of the general population.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“As a racial minority and as an immigrant woman I come to the table with different experiences. “As a racial minority and as an immigrant woman I come to the table with different experiences.” - Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto city councillor[/quote]

The country’s political parties will have to do better than just skin colour. They need to attract people with real life experiences and thoughts reflective of the populations they’re supposed to represent. Politicians need to be qualified and be able to push for change, he explains.

In the 2011 National Household Survey more than 200 ethnic origins were reported living in the country revealing that about one out of five people in Canada is a visible minority; in Ontario, it’s one in four.

Fresh Perspectives

In Toronto, the country’s largest city, where half the population is foreign born, out of the 45 city councillors that serve the GTA, only six are from visible minority backgrounds. City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, representing Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, is one of them.

Wong-Tam, an immigrant and a member of the LGBT community, arrived in Canada when she was four years old. In 2010, with the odds already stacked against her as the only racialized woman at Toronto City Hall, she also became the first ever gay woman elected to public office in Ontario, a few years before Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne took office.

“As a racial minority and as an immigrant woman I come to the table with different experiences,” Wong-Tam says. “I come from a working class family where my parents worked in hotels and factories, and English is not my first language.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Since we are not doing anything actively to fix it we are probably a generation away from it at least. The change will just happen as the younger generation, who is colour blind or gender blind, start to be the elites.” - Bruce Hicks, York University professor[/quote]

Wong-Tam, with her petite stature, is not in a conventional sense what you might imagine a political leader to be. Yet, she serves the second most populous ward in Toronto, considered to be a major employment zone and tax base. “From the city’s perspective this is where the wealth is created,” she says.

Statistically speaking, Wong-Tam faced tremendous hurdles to win her seat. Based on her minority statuses, she traditionally would be seen as a weak candidate — a person unable to gather a large number of votes. But she’s come out on top, twice, as she was re-elected in the last city election in 2014.

Time to Get On Board

At the time of Chan’s research (September 2014), Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) had the highest number of racialized MPs, while the Liberals and Conservatives trailed behind. As of this year the NDP is still on top with 14 visible minority MPs representing 13.6 per cent of the party’s caucus. The Conservatives have 12 representing 7.2 per cent and the Liberal Party have just two members, representing 5.9 per cent.

In total there are 49 parliamentarians of visible minority background (including First Nations), but since minorities represent 23.3 per cent of the population they should be holding somewhere around 93 seats instead.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Historically there is a belief that if you choose someone from an ethnic minority group you risk alienating other ethnic minority groups . . . therefore they (political parties) are hesitant, but it just doesn’t work that way.” - Bruce Hicks, York University professor[/quote]

Political scientist and Concordia/York University professor Bruce M. Hicks is well versed on the low count of visible minorities in Ottawa. He says no political party has really put diversity onto its radar even though it’s clear they’ve fallen way behind.

“Since we are not doing anything actively to fix it we are probably a generation away from it at least,” Hicks says. “The change will just happen as the younger generation, who is colour blind or gender blind, start to be the elites.”

And it’s getting better, at least for women, Hicks says. On one hand more and more women are starting to hold political positions, but on the other there has only been a slight shift forward for visible minorities. Over the years parties have acknowledged the gender gap and made efforts to improve it, that can’t be said for visible minorities. “No party is going out and recruiting actively, there are no programs in place for them,” Hicks says.

“Historically there is a belief that if you choose someone from an ethnic minority group you risk alienating other ethnic minority groups . . . therefore they (political parties) are hesitant, but it just doesn’t work that way,” he continues.

Deeper Social Issues

After she was first elected as city councillor, Wong-Tam unexpectedly received calls from the LGBT community from across the city and parts of southern Ontario voicing challenges and concerns, essentially looking for her help.

At the same time residents of the Chinese-Canadian community from other parts of Toronto like North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough have also turned to Wong-Tam instead of their local councillor, because they think she will have a better understanding of their issues.

“They (Chinese-Canadian community) specifically want to work with me . . . This is a real condition and a real set of circumstances that I do my job in,” she says. “I don’t believe other councillors are being called from across the city on these issues where residents don’t feel their councillors will understand.”

There are many good councillors, she adds, but she thinks they will have to go above and beyond of what they normally do in order to connect with the minority groups they serve in their wards.

Her experiences as a councillor are warning signs at the municipal level that should be taken seriously as they may be applicable at all levels of government.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“How odd would it be for a society in which the majority population is from one group while the ruling class is from another? This is what transpires in colonialism and certain dictatorships.” - Kai Chan, macro economist[/quote]

Wong-Tam has tried to address some issues informally assigned to her by residents outside her ward, but there is only so much one person can do.

“Actually I think it’s wrong for me to be given this additional work, simply because I happen to be racial minority, an immigrant and a woman of colour,” she said.

In the last census (2011) nearly 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a member of the visible minority population (not including First Nations people). That number has definitely grown since then.

“I think it’s really important that we have members of city council and elected officials reflect the populations they serve,” Wong-Tam adds. “And it’s not possible if the majority of the elected officials don’t look like the people riding public transit.”

Chan agrees, saying it is absolutely paramount that the governing body reflect the diversity of a country, or its legitimacy is threatened.

“How odd would it be for a society in which the majority population is from one group while the ruling class is from another?” Chan asks. “This is what transpires in colonialism and certain dictatorships. If a democracy yields such anomalies, I suspect that it’s a reflection of deeper social issues.”

{module NCM Blurb}

by L. Ian MacDonald

Welcome to the debate about the debates.

The world of federal election leaders’ debates as we know it went kaboom last week, when the Conservatives walked away from an understanding with the Big Three television networks for four debates during the fall campaign, two in English and two in French.

Instead, the Tories announced they’d accepted invitations for two debates — from Maclean’s magazine and Rogers TV in English, and Quebec’s TVA network in French. Both might be in August, before the writ for the October election is even dropped. Conservative campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke said the party would accept at least three more debates, two in English and one in French.

In the first news cycle after the story broke, the mainstream media were mostly shocked and appalled. What was Stephen Harper, famous for his head-games, up to in apparently dissing the TV consortium? Was he trying to suppress voter turnout by abandoning mass media in favour of niche channels where Conservatives could reach their target audience?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]his event has underlined that the consortium is actually a cartel. Other media have suddenly got that, in that they can also offer to host debates. For example, if iPolitics happened to host one, it wouldn’t be on television, but it would be live-streamed on the Internet.[/quote]

But then, the free market kicked in, and all kinds of media organizations offered to host leaders’ debates. Game on. Bloomberg News and the Globe and Mail were among them, and they’re not even in the television business. But they can produce live streaming video on the Internet. And from there, it’s just a posting to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Welcome to the digital world. The modern, 21st century world.

The network consortium — CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV and Global — pushed back with a statement that 10 million people watched the English debate in 2011 and four million the French one.

On CTV’s Question Period Sunday, host Bob Fife asked Teneycke why he would trade that for Rogers’ audience of just 300,000 on six local stations. To which Teneycke replied that the Big Three would be invited to cover the debate, and assumed they would. In this, the Conservatives are not alone. The NDP has accepted the same two invitations. The Liberals are ambivalent, promising that if elected they’d create an independent debates commission as in the United States.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It isn’t just the debate hosts and formats that are changing in Campaign 2015, but coverage of the leaders’ tours — there may well be a lot less of it.[/quote]

In last year’s Quebec election, TVA went it alone and shook up the traditional format by offering one-on-one segments. That probably plays to Harper’s and Tom Mulcair’s strengths as seasoned debaters. As for Justin Trudeau, he would win simply by exceeding low expectations. TVA would obviously invite Bloc Québécois Leader Mario Beaulieu, though it’s not clear whether it would include Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The consortium is suggesting they may go ahead with debates anyway, with Harper represented by a metaphorical empty chair. Yeah, right, try that with a guy who would be regulating your business if he won again. Hello, head office. Still, it’s an interesting game of chicken.

Adapting Debates to a Changing Media Landscape

The events of last week have also served to remind some in the media of the consortium’s accumulated sense of entitlement and exclusivity. They decide whether other parties are invited to debate; they determine the moderator and participants from their own networks; they choose the questions, including the video questions from ordinary voters. There was no transparency or disclosure in this, the consortium alone decides.

The Conservatives are obviously walking away from the consortium for their own reasons, and the least that can be said is that they are not disinterested. They want to reach their own audience, and in the title of Susan Delacourt’s excellent book, they are Shopping for Votes.

But this event has underlined that the consortium is actually a cartel. Other media have suddenly got that, in that they can also offer to host debates. For example, if iPolitics happened to host one, it wouldn’t be on television, but it would be live-streamed on the Internet. The audience might include my 24-year-old daughter. She and her friends don’t watch TV, but get all their information online.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]You won’t need to pay $10,000 a week to cover a GTA campaign, all you’ll need is the leaders’ itineraries and a car.[/quote]

It isn’t just the debate hosts and formats that are changing in Campaign 2015, but coverage of the leaders’ tours — there may well be a lot less of it.

It’s a question of cost and content.

It’s very expensive for media outlets to fly on leaders’ tours — a minimum of $10,000 per week. For a network television crew of three, that’s $30,000 per week over five weeks, times the three major tours.

For a newspaper, it costs $150,000 to cover the three major party tours; for a network the cost is upwards of $500,000.

In today’s cost conscious media environment, that’s a lot of money. And what do they get for it? Scripted tours that are as boring as the rain. Typically, a leader’s day begins with a media availability, followed by a photo op at a plant or daycare, followed by a speech to a chamber of commerce, followed by supper hour TV and radio interviews, wrapping up with a partisan party rally in the evening.

What if the networks decided to split the costs of a pool camera, and shoot their standups from Parliament Hill? What if newspapers decided they were fine with reports from Canadian Press?

That would cause leaders’ tours to downsize in a hurry. It’s already happening in the U.S., where Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton set off for her first tour of Iowa in a seven-seat van, leaving the media to fend for themselves as they chased after her. Last week she was in Brooklyn, touring neighbourhood doorsteps and posing for selfies posted on Twitter. She doesn’t need a media entourage for that.

The Canadian campaign is going to be decided mainly in the Greater Toronto Area, with 25 seats in downtown 416, and 29 seats in suburban 905. Those 54 seats make the GTA the third largest province in the country after Ontario and Quebec.

You won’t need to pay $10,000 a week to cover a GTA campaign, all you’ll need is the leaders’ itineraries and a car.


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. 

Published in Partnership with ipolitics.ca 

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