We Don’t Vote for Strangers: Why the GTA Went Red – Pt. I - New Canadian Media
Election lawn signs for the conservatives, liberals and NDP.

We Don’t Vote for Strangers: Why the GTA Went Red – Pt. I

Why did GTA voters prefer the Liberals over the Conservatives and the NDP?  I spoke to people living in Toronto and Brampton to find out

For the second consecutive federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won every riding in the Greater Toronto Area en route to victory. New Canadian Media reached out to members of various communities across the GTA to find out why the Liberals won their vote. This article is part of a four part series exploring the question: why the GTA went red? Read part II here.

The Bloc Québécois rebuilt itself, taking seats from both the Liberals and NDP in Québec. The Conservatives dominated in the west and nearly swept Saskatchewan and Alberta. All that has left us in Ontario with the sense that Québec and the western provinces aren’t feeling the love.

What I fear the most here in our bubble of Ontario is that we don’t know the feelings of those who feel disenfranchised from the rest of Canada. Democracy obliges us to let the current government run things while they’re in power, but that’ll be difficult considering the Liberals minority government and it’s clear there are regional divides among Canadians. We need to work together for the future and betterment of the country.

It’s worth raising the question, why did GTA voters prefer the Liberals over the Conservatives and the NDP?  I spoke to people living in Toronto and Brampton to find out.

Jagdish Grewal

I asked Jagdish Grewal, the editor of the Brampton-based newspaper, Punjabi Post, why did voters in the GTA prefer the Liberals over the Conservatives and the NDP? “It’s the Ontario PC [Progressive Conservative, the ruling party in Ontario] factor,” he replied. “Conservative nomination screws up, Harper’s statement in the CIFF event on Sikhs, Andrew Sheer did not visit any Gurudwara. After the Conservative leadership, no efforts were made to bring on old Conservatives’ workers to bring them together.”

While talking about NDP he said, “NDP leader [Jagmeet Singh] shines very late in the Ontario area. His popularly rises after advance polls. Young voters preferred Jagmeet because celebrities started following him. The other biggest effect was that the NDP was late in appointing their candidates. [We didn’t meet them] in advance to know them well.”

Satpal Johal

When I asked the same question to Satpal Johal, host at Toronto’s SSTV he said, “The majority of diverse populations are able to connect themselves with Liberals. Justin’s announcement to stop Conservatives sparked voters and many groups polarized and preferred to support the Liberals directly instead of supporting NDP.

“They thought if NDP will build a coalition with Liberals, then why not support Liberals directly. So, no logical need for NDP as a bypass. In Ontario, the anti-Ford factor did work for the benefit of Liberals, and it hit Conservatives. Many voters were determined to stop Conservatives.”

Avtar Singh

I also asked Avtar Singh, a 57-year-old from Brampton, he said, “All incumbents were re-elected across Ontario, not just Brampton. Preferred the Liberals because, in Brampton, the local representatives have been visible and involved. People like Sonia Sidhu are very well-liked.

“The Conservative candidates are all unknown and recently nominated. No one had any reason to vote for a person they don’t know and have never seen is loved in the city. There needs to be a better selection process for stronger candidates. The same applies to NDP, last-minute appointed candidates, never got time to know the people and people never got a chance to know them well. Also, I think NDP leader Jagmeet Singh thought it’s his area, people will honour him and vote the same way to him and his brother while they ran for the provincial election. But sadly, that never happens.” 

Bruce Marshall

Bruce Marshall is a Brampton-based activist and advocate, who ran for regional councillor of Brampton Wards 7 and 8 last year. He’s also a well-known Toronto radio broadcaster, having been on CHUM Radio for 20 years. Marshall said “I think voters went with what they knew — and who had been doing something for Brampton. It’s tough to replace an incumbent who is delivering and I think the Liberals delivered over the past four years.

“Not the NDP for the above, but also because the NDP weren’t prepared going into the election. The NDP seems to run entirely on central control. They’ve got riding associations across the country – but they’re ignored, pretty much as if they’re a bunch of annoying band groupies… The one thing members heard from Central on was — begging for money. They don’t want your involvement — but they do want you to open your wallet. Again, and again. I don’t know if every party is like that, but the NDP certainly is. There needs to be a massive house cleaning at National [level for the] NDP… and definitely at Ontario NDP.

“Not the Conservatives because I think they were running a campaign that was mostly founded on myths and lies. The Conservatives don’t want to acknowledge the fact of the climate emergency. I think that was a factor for many. By far and away it’s the most important issue. So, the Conservatives were the party that had nothing to say on an issue that faces not only all Canadians but also all of mankind.

“The previous Liberal government was not spectacular. But they did move things forward. They didn’t fix all that the Harper Conservatives broke with veterans, but they did fix some. They didn’t fix all that the Harper Conservatives broke with First Nations, but they did fix some. And as an activist and advocate in the area of poverty reduction — a really big issue in Peel — I appreciate that the Liberals moved that forward in great measure. 

“I look forward to seeing the Liberals move these issues further forward … But moreover, I look forward to the engagement of our Liberal MPs on many issues to benefit Brampton. As it stands, Brampton is getting screwed by the Ford Nation Conservatives at the provincial level as part of Ford’s personal vendetta.  It will be nice — and expected — that the federal Liberals will act like grownups and will be there for Brampton.”

Vicky Dhillon

In Former Brampton city councillor Vicky Dhillon’s point of view, the reason why Ontario was mostly coloured red Monday night has more to do with the other parties than the Liberals. ”Conservative leader [Andrew Scheer] was unable to deliver his message and solid platforms. NDP candidates were unknown. Doug Ford’s policies also damaged the Conservative candidates. 

Also, Ontarians already saddled with Doug Ford had no stomach for more of the same in Ottawa, Mr. Scheer should probably be replaced. He doesn’t have the imagination, nor the skills required to coalesce the country around him. Bottom line is it’s pretty sad showing for the Tories in Ontario, but otherwise not too surprising results. Undoubtedly the flood of immigrants into the Toronto area helped the Libs, and Ford’s performance likely didn’t help the Tories. That was the biggest reason people never voted for the Conservative Party.  Also flip flops on candidate nomination, people from Brampton are not happy with the Conservative Party, because of all this, we have this result in front of us.”

This is part I of a IV-part series on why the GTA voted Liberal. The next part looks at why Latino voters marked their ballots strategically. Read part II here.

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Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer. He is a popular media commentator on current affairs and member of the NCM collective.