by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

As Oct. 19 is only days away, a quick look at ridings with interesting ethno-cultural dynamics at play will give you an idea of what to watch out for on election night.

It is highly likely that there will be 50 or more minority legislators in the newly elected House of Commons – made possible in part because all three major parties have fielded candidates who share the cultural heritage of dominant populations in several of Canada’s 338 ridings.

While ethnicity is not the only influence on voting behaviour, ridings that have 20 per cent and above of people from a single group are indicative of the effectiveness of micro targeting by the parties. For one, these are large, but focused, groups that can be easily reached through advertising, often in languages spoken at home.

South Asians

The Conservatives targeted South Asian groups in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) in 2011 with significant success. But there are many indications to suggest that large sections of this heterogeneous group may vote Liberal as the party’s emphasis on issues like family reunification resonate with them.

Ridings to watch in the GTA are all five Brampton ridings and the five Mississauga ridings of Mississauga Centre, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Mississauga-Erin Mills, Mississauga-Malton and Mississauga-Streetsville. Many of them are three-way and two-way fights between candidates of South Asian heritage.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]here are many indications to suggest that large sections of this heterogeneous group may vote Liberal as the party’s emphasis on issues like family reunification resonate with them.[/quote]

Ridings of interest in the Toronto suburbs are Scarborough Centre, Scarborough North, Scarborough Southwest, Scarborough-Guildwood, Scarborough-Rouge Park and Etobicoke North. The NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaeisan and Liberal’s Bill Blair are the prominent candidates here.

Further west in Alberta, the ridings of Edmonton Mill Woods and Calgary Skyview are the ones to watch as they will decide the fate of Conservative incumbents Tim Uppal and Devinder Shory respectively in three-way fights amongst candidates of South Asian heritage. Calgary Forest Lawn will also be of interest as Deepak Obhrai, a prominent Conservative incumbent, is contesting from there.

In British Colombia, Surrey Centre and Surrey-Newton will witness three-way races between candidates of South Asian heritage. The other ridings to watch are Fleetwood-Port Kells, where Conservative incumbent Nina Grewal is contesting, and Vancouver South, where the Liberals have fielded star candidate Harjit Sajjan.

Chinese

In 2011, like with South Asians, the Conservatives were able to woo the ethnic Chinese vote successfully. And like the South Asians, some sections of this heterogeneous group are riled by changes in immigration and citizenship policies.

The new Express Entry program and the elimination of the immigrant investor program in 2014 have made Chinese immigration to Canada harder. Expect this dissatisfaction to be reflected in the way the community votes.    

In British Columbia, the Vancouver area ridings to watch are Richmond Centre, Steveston-Richmond East, Vancouver South, Vancouver East, Vancouver Granville, Vancouver Kingsway, Vancouver Quadra, Burnaby North-Seymour and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][L]ike the South Asians, some sections of this heterogeneous group are riled by changes in immigration and citizenship policies.[/quote]

Further to the east, the riding to watch is Calgary Nose Hill in Alberta where prominent Conservative incumbent Michelle Rempel is seeking re-election.

In the GTA, the ridings to watch are Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, from where Costas Menegakis, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, is contesting; Markham-Stouffville, where Paul Calandra who served as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary, is contesting; Markham-Thornhill, from where Liberal immigration critic John McCallum is contesting; Markham-Unionville; and Richmond Hill.

In the Toronto suburbs, the ridings to watch are Scarborough-Agincourt, Scarborough North, Willowdale and Don Valley North, where Conservative Joe Daniel is facing a strong challenge from Liberal Geng Tan.

Daniel has stirred controversy by speaking out on “so-called” refugees fleeing Syrian violence, criticizing Saudi Arabia for inaction on the crisis, and suggesting a Muslim “agenda” is pushing refugees into Europe.

Ukrainians

As Harper has made support for Ukraine a key part of his foreign policy initiatives, it would be of interest to know how it translates into keeping ridings with significant Ukrainian populations safely within the Conservative fold.

The ridings to watch are Lakeland in Alberta, Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan and the Manitoba ridings of Kildonan-St. Paul, Elmwood-Transcona and Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman.

Italians

The two ridings with a high concentration of Italian voters are in the GTA: King-Vaughan and Vaughan-Woodbridge. Both elected Conservatives in 2011, along with the other Ontario riding in play, Sault Ste. Marie.

The ridings to watch in Montreal are Saint Leonard-Saint Michel and Honoré-Mercier.

Non-Christian groups

When it comes to religion, no non-Christian community is in majority in any of the ridings.

The highest proportion is in Surrey-Newton with 44 per cent Sikh, followed by 34 per cent Sikh in Brampton East.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Sikhs have been able to rally together to ensure that fellow community members get elected to parliament from ridings where they are predominant.[/quote]

Being a close-knit religious community, Sikhs have been able to rally together to ensure that fellow community members get elected to parliament from ridings where they are predominant.

The current House of Commons has six Sikh MPs, a ratio well above their population figures.

“Jewish” ridings

The GTA suburb of Thornhill has the next most populous religious group in one riding with 37 per cent Jewish, followed by Montreal’s Mount Royal with 31 per cent. In Toronto, 25 per cent of both Eglinton-Lawrence and York Centre are Jewish. 

Eglinton-Lawrence is of added interest as Conservative Joe Oliver is in a tough three-way fight against Liberal Marco Mendicino and NDP star Andrew Thomson.

Oliver is one of the most senior Jewish parliamentarians. If he loses, it would be only the third time since Confederation that an incumbent finance minister is defeated.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he days of any one party monopolizing certain ethno-cultural votes have ended.[/quote]

The Muslim vote

Statistics Canada says Muslims comprise between 12 and 19 per cent of the population in 19 federal ridings – 11 in Ontario, six in Quebec and two in Alberta.

In the 2011 elections, 21 ridings in Ontario with notable Muslim populations were won by the smallest of margins.

According to non-partisan organization The Canadian Muslim Vote, had Muslims voted in greater numbers they could have been a deciding factor in determining who got elected.

High Muslim voter turnout could make a significant difference not only in ridings with high Muslim populations such as Don Valley East and Mississauga Centre, but also in key ridings in Calgary and Edmonton.

No monopoly on ethno-cultural vote

Other ridings with significant ethno cultural factors at play include Spadina-Fort York in Toronto, where Liberal star Adam Vaughan is fighting NDP star Olivia Chow.

The three Etobicoke ridings in Toronto are also significant as Ukrainian, Somali, South Asian and Ahmadiyya Muslim groups have influence in the area.

For the Conservatives, winning these ridings is important to maintain presence in a city that has been traditionally carved out between the Liberals and the NDP.

But the electoral fights in all of the above ridings indicate that the days of any one party monopolizing certain ethno-cultural votes have ended. These groups are now voting like the rest of Canadians without regard to narrow cultural or ethnic identities.

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Published in Top Stories

by Themrise Khan in Ottawa 

While the mainstream media definitely covers stories of local politicians’ victories and foreign leaders’ visits to Canada, what is sometimes missing from the coverage is the 'ethnic' story angle relating directly to the many Diaspora communities settling in Canada. That's why ethnic media outlets are vital to our country's media make-up. In this edition of PULSE we explore five headlines relating to the Pakistani-Canadian diaspora making waves in ethnic media outlets. 

Pakistani-Canadians Unsuccessful in Mississauga Ward 4 By-Elections 

After earning a total of 1,565 votes, John Kovac was the winner of the Mississauga Ward 4 by-elections held in April, reported the Urdu Post. 

Several candidates from the Pakistani community also contested the by-elections, but unfortunately, did not fare as well. Rabia Khedr garnered 850 votes, Arshad Mahmood received 265 votes and Ameer Ali received only 95 votes out of a total of 9,000 votes cast.

Kovac, won slightly over 17 per cent of the popular vote, with a result that came as a surprise to many voters. Kovac ran a stellar campaign to become the youngest councillor to be elected in Mississauga with a winning margin of almost 100 votes over opponent Antoni Kanto who received 1,467 votes.

From a total of 27 candidates, only seven ran campaigns that could be considered as well organized as Kovac's.

Modi’s Visit to Canada: Kashmiri People Must be Allowed to Decide Own Future

Until the Kashmiri people are given the right to decide their own future, the struggle for freedom will continue.

This was the message put forward by Dr. Ghulam Abbas at a meeting held in Toronto in light of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Canada in April, reported the Weekly Urdu Post Canada.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The meeting protested Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada and declared that in accordance with international law, India and Pakistan must withdraw their forces from Occupied Kashmir and allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.[/quote]

Thousands of Kashmiris have been killed in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir due to India’s forced occupation of the region and the Modi government has been accused of creating its own colonies to be able to crush the Kashmiri independence movement, reports the newspaper.

Members of this meeting further demanded that Canada should end all its agreements with India to convince it to allow the (disputed) state of Jammu and Kashmir to decide its own fate.

The meeting protested Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada and declared that in accordance with international law, India and Pakistan must withdraw their forces from Occupied Kashmir and allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future.

Why are Pakistani-Canadians not Politically United? A Commentary.

The weak performance of Pakistani candidates in Canadian politics has prompted many in the community to question why they have not been able to achieve success.

A commentary by Masood Khan on this topic appeared in the May 6 edition of the Urdu Times, using the Mississauga Ward 4 by-elections as an example of this, where the few Pakistani-Canadians who contested, fared poorly.

Unlike the Indian community who are very politically and socially united, several Pakistani community members have made many attempts to contest in local ridings, but have not been very been successful in winning, despite their contributions to the community.

One of the reasons for this, the article suggests, is perhaps that many Pakistanis contest for nominations without having much experience in politics or, for that matter, working for the community. 

The analysis further states that thousands of people vie for nominations on local seats so candidates now need at least between 2,500 and 4,000 votes to win, which is far beyond the scope of the Pakistani community in many cases.

Alleged Irregularities Discovered in Selection of Brampton South Nominations

Unusual circumstances have prevented Nasir Hussain, the Liberal Party candidate in Brampton South, from securing a nomination for his party recently, reported the Urdu Times. Coming third place in the race has raised serious questions for all those who recognize Hussain as being a long-standing member of the local community and the Liberal Party for several years.

A sudden blackout on the day of polling at the station and unusual traffic conditions that blocked roads leading to the polling station were incidences that have raised suspicion amongst Hussain’s supporters. Investigations revealed that the reason for these occurances was a traffic accident close by that damaged an electrical pole.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]These incidences have raised many concerns amongst [Nasir] Hussain’s supporters, who feel the need to find out exactly why someone as popular as him was unable to secure the riding nomination. They want to protect the Liberal Party from such attacks in the future.[/quote]

But even if this was the case, the article continues, it still raises questions as to why there were not adequate measures made at the polling centre for backup generators, or an alternative route was not provided to those driving to the polling station.

Another major concern that raised suspicion of irregularities in the process, was the removal of Hussain’s chief polling agent on accusations of wrongdoing, which provided the opposing candidate the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, and ultimately, win.

This was followed by an altercation between the winning party and supporters of Hussain who claimed they were abused verbally in ways that did not reflect Canadian values.

These incidences have raised many concerns amongst Hussain’s supporters, who feel the need to find out exactly why someone as popular as him was unable to secure the riding nomination. They want to protect the Liberal Party from such attacks in the future.

The 100-Year Journey: A Story of South Asian Pioneers

With the help of funding from the Government, a project showcasing the contributions of South Asians in building Canada has been initiated to create awareness on the subject among the public at large.

According to The Canadian Times, Minister of Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and state minister for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal (pictured to the right) announced that under the 100-year Journey Project, the Government of Canada would provide $200,000 to produce a book chronicling this journey. 

The book will contain stories of prominent South Asians who came to Canada in its early years and made significant contributions to the development of the country.


Themrise Khan is a freelance social policy research professional and a recent immigrant to Canada. She has a keen interest in issues of migration and migrant diasporas, as well as foreign policy and international relations.

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Published in South Asia

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