What Makes Brampton Voters Tick - New Canadian Media

What Makes Brampton Voters Tick

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…

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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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.