‘Ethnic’ Ridings to Watch on Election Night

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.


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.


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.


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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