John Ivison: A most convenient misstep for the Liberals in Burnaby South – and other related articles

A good example of ethnic politics going wrong.

First, an interesting political analysis by Ivison:

Occam’s razor, the problem-solving principle dating back to the 13th century friar William of Ockham, states that, other things being equal, simple explanations are generally better than more complex ones.

A medical equivalent, Zebra, guides doctors to reject exotic medical diagnoses in favour of more commonplace explanations.

“When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras,” runs the logic.

It’s a good guiding principle for analyzing politics too. It is more often incompetence, rather than scruples, that makes the simplest explanation most likely. The relationships underlying political events are so complex that predicting outcomes from any action is a dubious business.

Yet sometimes, a case comes along where the more complex theory cannot be ruled out.

Take events in the riding of Burnaby South in British Columbia. The Liberals hemmed and hawed about running a candidate in the Feb. 25 byelection there, conscious that if they did so, they might inadvertently win and put paid to the political career of Jagmeet Singh, the federal NDP leader who is seeking a seat in Parliament.

Singh has found the learning curve in federal politics particularly steep, making numerous missteps in the full glare of the national media.

This past weekend, he failed to answer a question on a topic that had been all over the news. He claimed he hadn’t heard the question, but he left the impression that it is only the hard questions that he mis-hears.

Singh remains Justin Trudeau’s preferred opponent in October’s federal election and there was the very real prospect that, if defeated, he might be replaced by someone more seasoned.

The Liberals had the option of not running a candidate in Burnaby South — Elizabeth May’s Green Party decided to respect the old tradition of “leader’s courtesy,” not running against a federal leader trying to win a seat in the House of Commons.

Yet there were local pressures to run a Liberal candidate in the byelection, and it was decided it would be bad form for the ruling party to be so brazen about its preferences.

Step forward Karen Wang, a local daycare operator, who edged biotech scientist Cyrus Eduljee in a contested nomination.

Wang’s candidacy put Singh’s political future very much in doubt, given the seat was won by NDP MP Kennedy Stewart by just 600 votes over his Liberal rival in 2015.

It went unsaid by everyone that a Chinese-Canadian candidate might have extra cachet in a riding where nearly 40 per cent of voters are of Chinese descent.

At least, it went unsaid until Wang said it. Not only did she point out on a Chinese social media platform that she was “the only Chinese candidate,” she identified Singh as being “of Indian descent.”

It was a pretty blatant case of racism from the party that claimed so often in the last election that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

Since Trudeau’s main line of attack in the next election will be to accuse the Conservatives of fomenting the “politics of division,” it was clear that he would not support a candidate emphasizing differences and playing on intolerance to get elected.

Wang said the “phrasing should have been different” and removed her Chinese language post but it was too late.

Early Wednesday Pacific time, the party issued a statement saying that Wang’s comments “are not aligned with the values of the Liberal Party of Canada” and said it had accepted her resignation. “The Liberal party has a clear commitment to positive politics and support for Canadian diversity and the same is always expected of our candidates,” it said.

Wang issued her own statement, apologizing to Singh, and saying her choice of words about his cultural background “was not well-considered and did not reflect my intent.”

Her resignation has left Singh alone on the left of the political spectrum in Burnaby South, facing Conservative Jay Shin and People’s Party candidate Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson. His victory would seem assured, if the Liberals don’t replace Wang. And yet they seem in no hurry to do so. When asked if there would be another Liberal candidate, Liberal communications director Braeden Caley said: “We’ll have more to discuss on that in due course.”

The most recent opinion poll in Burnaby South by Mainstreet Research suggested the byelection was turning into a two-horse race between Singh, with 39 per cent support, and Wang, with 26 per cent. The Conservatives will be more alarmed by the pollsters’ estimate of People’s Party support, at nine per cent, than the failure of their candidate to win the seat (Shin had the support of 22 per cent of the 740 people polled.)

Even with a margin of error of nearly four per cent, it’s clear that Burnaby South will stay orange if there is no Liberal in the race.

So back to Occam’s razor. Was this just a case of a reckless candidate gambling that if she played dog-whistle politics, it wouldn’t be heard beyond the Chinese community?

Or was the plan all along to throw the fight?

Nine times out of 10, it would be the former but the outcome of this electoral rumpus is extremely convenient for Trudeau. He has polished his own halo as the great unifier who will forge consensus and bridge divides.

And he has all but insured that an NDP leader yet to find his feet on the national stage staggers on to fight the general election.

This may be the rare occasion when the hoofbeats are made by zebras.

Source: John Ivison: A most convenient misstep for the Liberals in Burnaby South

Secondly, revelations by Michelle Rempel, not substantiated but believable, that Wang wanted to run as a Conservative but was rejected:

The Conservative Party of Canada rejected Karen Wang as a potential candidate before her short-lived Liberal Party candidacy in the Burnaby South byelection, according to MP Michelle Rempel.

Rempel said Wang approached her party, wanting to run in the 2019 federal election.

“The Conservative Party of Canada said no to this candidate over a year ago,” she said. “There was a reason for that.”

Rempel would not specify what that reason was.

“My understanding is that there were some discussions with this particular individual and the party decided for reasons regarding her judgment, that became clear today, to not allow her to run for us,” she said.

Rempel made the comments at a press conference in Burnaby Wednesday afternoon. She was joined by Conservative candidate Jay Shin, who is running in the Feb. 25 Burnaby South byelection. The Calgary-based Parliamentarian called the press conference to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to initiate a review of Canada’s immigration screening process.

Rempel’s comments came just hours after Wang dropped out of the race. She came under fire for a WeChat post in which she identified herself as the “only Chinese candidate” in the byelection and pointed out that her opponent, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, is of Indian heritage. The post was translated from Chinese and reported by StarMetro Vancouver.

“My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh,” Wang said in a statement. “I have deep respect for him as the leader of his party and for his public service – and I would never want to diminish that in any way.”

Rempel condemned the WeChat post, calling it “racism plain and simple.”

Shin said he was shocked by Wang’s comments.

“I’m offended as a Korean person, as a Korean-Canadian,” he said. “There’s no place for that.”

The NOW has reached out to the Liberal Party and a representative of Wang’s for comment.

Wang ran for the B.C. Liberal Party in the 2017 provincial election, losing to New Democrat Anne Kang. When the NOW asked her earlier this month why she had chosen to run with the federal Liberals after running for a party often aligned with the federal Conservatives, she said she had always been a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada due to its core values, including diversity, liberty, multiculturalism and national unity.

Source: Conservatives rejected Karen Wang before her short-lived Liberal candidacy, MP says

Third, two different columns in the Toronto Sun, the first by Candice Malcolm, not acknowledging similar practices by the Conservatives, the second by Brian Lilley basically a plague on all their houses with respect to courting ethnic votes:

This is what a postnational multicultural state looks like.

On Wednesday, the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South by-election resigned after sending a controversial message through the Chinese social media platform WeChat.

In a Chinese-language post, Karen Wang told her supporters to vote for her because she is “the only Chinese candidate” in the race, and to vote against NDP candidate and party leader Jagmeet Singh, noting that he is “of Indian descent.”

This sort of crass appeal based solely on race and identity is off-putting and unwelcome to most Canadians. But it should come as no surprise that race-based ethnic politics takes place across Canada.

And while the Liberal Party can try to back away from Wang’s message, her appeal to identity politics is straight out of the Liberal playbook and echoes the politics and policies promoted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In late 2015, Trudeau was interviewed by The New York Times magazine about his vision for Canada.

The American publication fawned that “Trudeau’s most radical argument is that Canada is becoming a new kind of state, defined not by its European history but by the multiplicity of its identities from all over the world.”

Forget about our traditions of ordered liberty that date back to the signing of the Magna Carta. And forget about our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy — arguable the most successful form of government in human history — or our commitment to Western liberal ideals.

That type of “European history” is unimportant in Trudeau’s Canada.

Instead, Trudeau said “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada… those are the qualities that make us the first postnational state.”

The race-based message from the Liberal candidate mirrors this type of thinking. Wang’s appeal is the inevitable conclusion of Trudeau’s identity politics and his dream of a post-national Canada.

For instance, in her WeChat message, Wang does not call herself “Canadian” or even “Chinese-Canadian.” Instead, she identifies as “Chinese” and calls Singh “Indian.”

Just like Trudeau said, there’s no mainstream, no core identity in Canada. Newcomers don’t have to change anything about themselves when they move to Canada, so why would they bother to adopt a Canadian identity?

Likewise, Trudeau has downplayed the emphasis on language — eliminating the citizenship language test for many newcomers. It’s no surprise, then, to see politicians pandering in different languages to various ethnic communities.

Trudeau’s fixation on identity politics led him to appointing cabinet positions based solely on gender. While 26% of MPs are women, Trudeau promoted 50% to his cabinet.

But why stop at gender? The next logical step is to expand this thinking to other identities, like ethnic background and language groups. Why wouldn’t a postnational Canada have quotas to proportionately represent every ethnic group?

In November, Trudeau said he rejected Canadian nationalism, seemingly conflating it with ethnic nationalism found in Europe and throughout the world.

Canadian nationalism, however, is not based on race or ethnicity, since Canada has always been pluralistic and racially diverse. Instead, our nationalism is defined by patriotism — a love of country and commitment to our heritage and shared values.

Patriotism is the glue that holds our diverse country together, and without it, we devolve into tribalism — divided by bloodlines and ancient feuds from foreign lands.

Trudeau has engineered these changes and created a toxic brew in Canada: lax integration policies juxtaposed with a forced multiculturalism that downplays Canadian values and divisive identity politics that demonizes Canadian heritage and identity.

Source: MALCOLM: Raced-based politics natural outcome of Trudeau’s ‘postnational state’

Karen Wang’s career as a Liberal Party of Canada candidate came to disastrous end on Wednesday as the party dumped her over stupid, and quite frankly racist comments.

It was such a change for a woman whose Twitter profile bragged about being the Team Trudeau candidate in the Burnaby South byelection. The party itself had just the evening before tweeted its support of her.

The official Liberal Party account tweeted “Add Women Change Politics” and called Wang an incredible candidate just hours before this story broke.

Now she’s out, brought down by a crass attempt to use race and tribal politics to win the byelection.

In a posting on Chinese social media platform WeChat, Wang spoke of the size and importance of the Chinese community, then she made the stupid, racist comments.

“If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the by-election, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this by-election is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!”

I love the flourish with the exclamation point on Singh’s Indian heritage, she is screaming loud and clear that she means don’t vote for the brown guy.

Well that wouldn’t work for Justin “Diversity is our Strength” Trudeau and after about 15 hours of hand wringing, Wang was fired.

The official line is she resigned, I’m sure her resignation was what I call “voluntold.” Give us your resignation or else.

In her statement, Wang apologized to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, kind of.

“My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh,” Wang said in a statement.

In its own statement the party said Wang’s comments, “are not aligned with the values of the Liberal Party.”

No kidding, they shouldn’t be aligned with anyones values.

Yet in some ways Wang thrust into the open the kind of ethno-politics that all the parties have played for years.

Every party has pandered to ethnic, religious or linguistic communities for votes. They will make sure certain ridings have candidates from a specific group if that group is a large enough voting bloc.

I’ve always found it off-putting and wished the parties would stop.

Voters should be picking candidates to vote for with the best policies for their riding, not the same skin colour or ethnic background.

Parties should pick policies to run on that align with their values and are in the best interests of Canada, not so they can attract certain ethnic voting blocs.

Ms. Wang was in many ways playing the game that has been played too long in Canadian politics, albeit more crassly.

Her statement and apology are weak and she needs to say more.

If this were a white candidate, especially a white male candidate, the fury over these comments about not voting for Singh because he is of Indian descent would be deafening.

Wang cannot be allowed an easy escape, nor can the Liberal Party be let off the hook, simply because she is an Asian woman.

There is the idea that I have heard from anti-racism activists that racism only comes from white people. It’s a foolish claim. Anyone can be racist and Wang’s comments show that.

Saying, “My choice of words wasn’t well-considered” does not gloss over the fact that she told supporters vote for me, I’m Chinese and he’s not.

Wang’s initial reaction to the media stories on this also shows she doesn’t understand why it was wrong, she told the Toronto Star it was just bad communication.

“The phrasing should have been different,” she said.

It wasn’t the phrasing that was the problem Ms. Wang, it was the intent of your post.

This kind of politics has no place in Canada. I’d like to say I hope we never see it again, but that is wishful thinking.

The best we can do is call it out when we see it.

Source: LILLEY: Wang’s resignation shows dangers of playing ethno-politics 

Lastly, some good on the ground reporting on the reaction of the Chinese Canadian community in Burnaby South: ‘It makes us look bad’: Burnaby’s Chinese-Canadian community reacts to Karen Wang’s resignation over WeChat post

Wang’s effort to rescind her resignation was rightly rejected: Ousted candidate’s story takes another strange turn, this time into a parking lot

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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