Phillips: Don’t brush off attempts to undermine our democracy. We should know which politicians got China’s money


Can we take a break from lecturing Americans about the state of their democracy and focus for a bit on problems with our own?

Canadians love to watch from a safe distance when all the horrors and glories of the American political system are on display, as they are this week as we comb through the results of their midterm elections.

We especially love to pat ourselves on the back for the fact that our system is, for the most part, mercifully free of the most extreme elements of U.S. politics. That’s mostly just good for our national self-regard, but it would be a shame if it distracts us from the disturbing possibility that a foreign power has been actively interfering in our own recent national elections, even changing the outcome in at least one case.

Put like that, it sounds far-fetched. But Global News reported this week that Canada’s intelligence service, CSIS, warned federal ministers in January that China has targeted this country with a “vast campaign of foreign interference.”

According to the report, CSIS told the government that Beijing funded a “clandestine network” of at least 11 federal candidates, including both Liberals and Conservatives, in the 2019 federal election. It also placed “agents” in the offices of MPs to influence policy and mounted “aggressive campaigns” to punish Canadian politicians it saw as threats to its interests.

Asked about this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t deny it. Instead, he essentially confirmed the report by saying some “state actors,” including China, continue to “play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”

The government then went on, through a speech by Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, to sketch out its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy. This is the famous “eyes wide open” approach, whereby Canada will take a more cautious stance toward China and try to deepen links with other Asian nations, in particular India.

But hang on a moment — let’s not change the channel quite so fast. Those CSIS briefings were pretty specific, according to Global’s Sam Cooper. They alleged that the Chinese government funnelled money through proxies to almost a dozen candidates in a federal election and worked to undermine others.

So many questions. Which candidates got the money? How many of them won, and how many lost? For those who did get money, did they know who was ultimately behind it or were they ignorant of what was going on? And which candidates did China work against? What happened to them?

Finally, was this activity limited to just the 2019 election, or was it happening before or after? A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, says he believes “several Conservative MPs” lost their seats in the 2019 and 2021 elections because China targeted them through social media networks in the Chinese community.

We know the name of at least one who was probably singled out. Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost his Vancouver-area seat in 2021 after he introduced a bill to set up a registry of agents for foreign governments (something Canada should certainly have). He immediately found himself labelled as anti-Chinese in Chinese-language social media, and is convinced Beijing’s operatives were behind the campaign to defeat him.

Now it seems he wasn’t the only one, if the CSIS briefing to the government is to be believed. It’s in line with many warnings over the years from Canada’s top intelligence officials that China has been actively meddling in our domestic politics, partly by working through sympathetic politicians and partly by manipulating votes in Chinese communities.

Isn’t this something we should know more about? The government received that CSIS briefing in January, but as far as we know it did nothing. 

It’s important to look at the big picture by elaborating a new Indo-Pacific strategy. And judging by Joly’s speech this week, the government seems to be broadly on the right track. 

But in the meantime, we shouldn’t brush off a real attempt to undermine our democracy. Let’s start by asking where that Chinese money went, and to whom.

Source: Don’t brush off attempts to undermine our democracy. We should know which politicians got China’s money

Calls by Operation Black Vote Canada for increased representation in elections are going unanswered by party leaders

Never understand why these kinds of advocacy and calls do not include any data, even though this is fairly easy to obtain given work by a number of researchers.

2019 numbers to provide the most recent baseline: 50 Black candidates, 6 Black MPs. A partial explanation lies in the relative dispersion of Black Canadians in contrast to other groups (e.g., Canadian Sikhs, Chinese Canadians) that are more concentrated.

There are 21 ridings with 10 percent or more Black Canadians (2016 data) –

Earlier this year, Parliament unanimously voted to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day across Canada, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

While we have made progress in the almost 200 years since the first Emancipation Day, we still have a lot to do to eradicate the systemic racism that remains deeply embedded in our institutions. To do so, we must ensure that we have diversity and inclusion at decision-making tables at every level of government.

As part of its advocacy efforts, Operation Black Vote Canada (OBVC) engaged the leaders of the major political parties with elections occurring over the next 12-18 months to call for the implementation of strategies to increase the meaningful participation of Black candidates in upcoming races.

Leaders are responsible for setting the tone, priorities and direction of the campaigns their parties will run. With this authority comes both the opportunity and the responsibility of ensuring that the slates they present to voters reflect the makeup of Canada. To this end, we have asked party leaders to commit to three things:

  • Working with local electoral district associations to help nominate Black candidates in ridings with past records of success, or “winnable” ridings.
  • Ensuring that Black nomination candidates have equal access to lists, information and data to further their campaigns.
  • Ensuring that nominated Black candidates receive equally full support of their party structure throughout the election cycle, including fundraising support, leader engagement and access to all relevant data.

While we received responses from every party leader in Nova Scotia, we are still awaiting replies from the Ontario PC party, and all of the party leaders in Quebec. Despite our efforts, the only federal party to respond to date is the Green party.

Over the past year, we have heard from corporate and political party leaders that they are committed to increasing diversity in all workplaces.

The path to building a diverse caucus is paved with a diverse slate of candidates. As part of our commitment to advocate for the election of Black Canadians of all political affiliations across Canada, OBVC will continue to hold leaders and political parties to account for the lack of representation of Black Canadians at all levels of government. Black representation matters to us, and to Canada. It should matter to political party leaders as well — we know that a broader pool of lived experiences helps inform and develop public policy that reflects the needs of Canadians.

Black communities must demand that our interests and or voices are adequately represented at all decision-making tables. In the current and upcoming elections, we are asking all voters to choose wisely, looking at all the platforms and the track record of each party — including who they choose to nominate.

Ultimately, it’s up to us all to vote for a party that reflects the best interests of you, your family and your community.

Velma Morgan is the chair of Operation Black Vote Canada. She is an advocate for gender and cultural diversity in politics.


Candidate diversity is high on the agenda as Canada’s political parties prepare for a federal election

Of note, pending a more complete analysis:

During what’s widely expected to be an election year, Canadians have been confronted with the realities of discrimination, racism and reconciliation as never before.

That’s something major federal parties are thinking about as they craft their slates of candidates, who, if elected, will need to represent the interests of a diverse electorate.

The Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens have all made efforts to connect with under-represented communities, mostly through updated recruiting requirements and fundraising initiatives.

But they’re less forthcoming about the specific targets they’re hoping to hit, such as what proportion of racialized or LGBTQ+ candidates would indicate a successful and representative nomination process.

Women, for example, make up just over half of Canada’s population, but it took until 2020 for just 100 of its 338 MPs to come from that group. Millennials are one of the largest populations in Canada, yet most federally elected officials are much older. And visible minorities, Indigenous people, the LGBTQ+ community and disabled Canadians are all under-represented in the House of Commons.

“Parties are largely vote seeking, organizational machines,” said Erin Tolley, Canada Research Chair in Gender, Race and Inclusive Politics at Carleton University.

“So if a party is looking out into the public landscape and sees that issues related to equity or to diversity or to representativeness are something that the public is hungering for … parties will respond to that in a way that is consistent with their ideological vision.”

Here’s how four major federal parties are looking at tackling the balance this time around. (The Bloc Québécois did not reply to requests for comment.)

The Liberals

As of Tuesday, the Liberals had nominated 191 candidates, with more announcements expected throughout the week. Women make up 43 per cent of that total, with racialized Canadians accounting for more than 20 per cent of those nominated. Seven candidates are Indigenous.

Navdeep Bains, who is chairing the Liberals’ national campaign along with Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly, has been tasked with seeking out candidates for the governing party.

One of the changes the party has made is to widen requirements within its nomination process. Previously, local riding associations needed to prove they had sought out female candidates. Now, associations must show how they’ve attempted to bring anyone from an equity-seeking group into the fold.

“You’ve got to document, and really have to engage and have a thorough search for potential candidates,” Bains said. “We’re talking about women, Black and Indigenous (candidates), people of colour, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities.”

The party is also dipping into two pre-existing funds to assist with that work. One is the Judy LaMarsh Fund, which supports female candidates running for the federal Liberals. The other is the Indigenous Electoral Endowment Fund, which is intended to help recruit and support Indigenous candidates.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives had nominated 240 candidates as of Monday. The party did not provide a breakdown of the groups to which those candidates belong because it’s still compiling that information, but party spokesperson Cory Hann identified several as Muslim.

Hann said party supporters and staff have been asked to “work their networks and encourage people from all backgrounds to get involved” as either candidates or campaigners.

“The candidates we’ve nominated so far all have varying backgrounds both professionally and personally, ensuring that, as (Conservative Leader Erin) O’Toole has said, Canadians from all over the country see themselves in our Conservative party.”

Where representation is concerned, the party appears to be focusing most on building bridges with racialized and Indigenous communities, although the party is tight-lipped on the specifics of those plans.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis has been leading engagement efforts with “cultural and religious minority communities,” telling the Star he is “excited about the potential that we have for growth in that area in the upcoming campaign.”

Genius would not expand on which communities he was specifically courting, or how those efforts look in practice, citing the Tories’ “inside strategy.”


In 2019, the New Democrats led the charge when it came to candidate diversity, hovering near the gender parity benchmark and reaching or surpassing representative levels for Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ+ groups.

For the next election, the party is trying to ensure more than 50 per cent of its candidates are women — the only specific target cited by any federal party for any equity-seeking group.

The party has nominated 97 candidates so far, half of whom are women. Racialized Canadians make up 33 per cent of that total, while six per cent are Indigenous and 18 per cent are LGBTQ+. People living with a disability account for 12 per cent of nominated candidates, and 11 per cent have been identified as “youth.”

As with the Liberals, riding associations must demonstrate how they’ve sought to recruit diverse candidates. The party is also now requiring that any outgoing incumbent is replaced with someone from an equity-seeking group. Departing MP Jack Harris, for example, will be succeeded by one such candidate.

“This is a huge priority for us. It’s part of our DNA,” NDP national director Anne McGrath told the Star.

McGrath said that because the party has more resources heading into the next election than it did in 2019, more emphasis is being placed on recruitment.

The Green party

There may be no party for which running a diverse roster of candidates is more important than the federal Greens.

While Annamie Paul is the first Black and Jewish woman to lead a major federal party, she is currently embattled within a party structure that insiders charge is perpetuating racism and sexism.

What’s more, a confidential report prepared for the Greens and obtained by the Star found the party fell short of recruiting and supporting diverse candidates in the last general election. In 2019, the party ran fewer visible minority candidates than the far-right People’s Party, according to a report by The Canadian Press.

That’s something Paul is committed to changing, despite opposition she says she’s faced from some party officials.

“There’s a tremendous amount of power in making the invitation. Just making an open invitation to say we see you, we value you, we want you,” Paul told the Star.

As of Monday, 148 applicants had been approved through the drive and other recruitment streams, though only 39 have been formally nominated. Of the approved applicants, 41 per cent are women, followed by racialized Canadians at 19 per cent and youth under 30 at 15 per cent. Six per cent of approved applicants are Indigenous, while 17 per cent belong to the LGBTQ+ community and 12 per cent are persons with disabilities.

Source: Candidate diversity is high on the agenda as Canada’s political parties prepare for a federal election

‘What are equity-seeking groups?’ Confidential report reveals Greens’ problems supporting diverse candidates in 2019

Of note but probably the least of their worries right now:

Election 2015 and Beyond- Implementation Diversity and Inclusion (2019 update included).111

A confidential report prepared for the federal Greens details the party’s shortcomings in recruiting and supporting diverse candidates in the last general election, the Star has learned.

It’s the same problem beleaguered leader Annamie Paul has said the party officials trying to depose her don’t want her to address.

Sean Yo, a top member of Paul’s political circle who ran her byelection campaign in Toronto Centre last year, said Paul’s push to increase diversity is “central” to the challenges she is facing within the party.

“I think that others who have obstructed and frustrated her leadership see this as a distraction, and that everything is just fine, and interpret her strength and determination as something that’s unwelcome,” Yo told the Star on Thursday.

The report, which was obtained by the Star, was drafted last year by a Toronto-based firm called DiversiPro, with input from the party’s diversity co-ordinator who was laid off this week.

The authors surveyed representatives of riding associations across the country. Of the minority that responded — representing 63 Green electoral district associations (EDAs) — 29 per cent said they had no strategy to recruit equity-seeking candidates for the 2019 election, while 35 per cent said they did not understand what that means.

“What are equity-seeking groups? We don’t sell shares in our EDA,” said one unnamed respondent quoted in the report.

The report said this is a “glaring indicator of a lack of information about diversity issues in the party,” and concluded “it is clear that the party has a lot of work to do before it truly embodies its core values of respect for diversity and social justice.”

Paul declined to comment about the report through her spokesperson on Thursday.

The internal party report was made as part of a push to address a lack of diversity after the 2019 election, when the party ran fewer visible minority candidates than the far-right People’s Party, according to a report by The Canadian Press.

That push also included hiring a diversity co-ordinator, Zahra Mitra, who helped create the confidential report before she was laid off this week along with two staffers in Paul’s office. This spring, Mitra penned an email to dozens of party staffers that decried the Greens’ “very real problem with racism” and accused unnamed officials of hampering efforts to make the organization more inclusive.

Now Paul is facing a direct threat to her leadership as the party’s top governing body — the federal council — prepares to hold a vote on July 20 that could lead to her removal. The vote was called over Paul’s handling of a controversy involving a top aide who denounced Green MPs’ comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last month, Paul accused unnamed officials of making “racist” and “sexist” allegations against her, and tied their resistance to her efforts to make the Greens “the most diverse party in federal politics” through an open recruitment drive called the “Time to Run” campaign. She told reporters that “this kind of change… is often perceived as a threat to the existing institutional gatekeepers,” and said members on the party’s top governance body who are seeking to oust her oppose her diversity efforts.

Judy Green, who ran against Paul in the leadership race last year and recently resigned from her local riding association in Nova Scotia, said she was told she would not be allowed to run for the party in the next election. In an interview with the Star, she said she supports Paul’s push for diversity but that her efforts to recruit fresh candidates are pushing out more experienced Greens.

“People who’ve been working very hard, who were building teams, who were prepared to represent the Greens in the next election, have been cast aside,” Green said.

But the party’s decision to address diversity predates Paul’s leadership, which began in October 2020.

Prateek Awasthi was the Green party’s executive director until he resigned last fall amid controversy over his handling of harassment complaints at a previous job. He said his top task when he was hired after the 2019 election was to increase diversity in the party, and he implemented changes like mandatory training for leadership candidates and federal council members, as well as a process to deal with complaints about discrimination.

Based on interviews with 36 equity-seeking candidates from the 2019 election, the diversity report found that several of them experienced racism and sexism from Green members during the campaign, including comments about their appearance and “jokes” about their gender or race.

“A lot of those painful experiences were shared and the party decided that it would take this seriously,” Awasthi said, referring to the origins of the diversity report.

However, despite what he perceived as good intentions, Awasthi said he confronted skepticism from top officials who felt the diversity push was unnecessary.

“They were sort of shocked at the implication that they might have any unconscious bias because of how they loved the planet,” Awasthi said.

And that might be part of the problem Paul is having in the party as she pushes to bring in diverse candidates, he said.

“You can’t Kumbaya your way out of systemic racism, right? It’s tough work. And that was sort of the source of the resistance.”

Source: ‘What are equity-seeking groups?’ Confidential report reveals Greens’ problems supporting diverse candidates in 2019

Germany Grapples With Racism After Threats Derail Refugee’s Candidacy For Parliament


Tareq Alaows was hoping to become the first Syrian refugee to win a seat in Germany’s parliament when the country goes to the polls in September.

Speaking to NPR in February after announcing his candidacy with the Green Party, the 31-year-old lawyer and human rights activist from Damascus was full of ambition to help make Germany a better place.

“From my own experience as an asylum-seeker, I know that Germany needs to improve its integration policies, because they impact everyone, not just refugees,” he said. “I want to effect change for everyone in Germany.”

When Alaows fled the war in Syria in 2015, he thought he was leaving the threat of violence behind him. “The whole reason I came to Europe was so that I could live in safety and with dignity,” he said.

That has not come to pass. Citing death threats and a racist offensive against him and people close to him, Alaows withdrew his candidacy to represent the constituency of Oberhausen, in North Rhine-Westphalia state, in parliament on March 30.

The intolerance and intimidation Alaows faces have been widely condemned but are nothing new for Muslim and nonwhite public figures, or for politicians who openly support refugees. His dramatic campaign ending follows a rise of ethnic discrimination and violence in Germany in recent years, according to the government’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency.

“We have a problem with racism”

Alaows is not currently talking to the press, although he has spoken to Green Party candidate Lamya Kaddor.

“I wasn’t surprised by the threats and abuse pitted at Tareq, but I think he was,” Kaddor said. “We have a problem with racism in this country, and not just with far-right extremists. Racism is widespread, even in the middle of society.”

Kaddor, who is running to represent a Duisburg district in the September election, said she too faces racism daily. She was born in Germany to parents who came from Syria several decades ago. She vows she won’t let intimidation stop her election campaign.

“I’m used to a certain level of hatred and hostility. It doesn’t scare me anymore,” Kaddor said. “But it’s frightening for Tareq, who’s experiencing such vehement racist abuse for the first time.”

Like Kaddor, journalist Ferda Ataman was saddened but not surprised by Alaows’ decision.

“Being the target of racist abuse and threats myself, I fully understand why Tareq Alaows has stepped down,” said Ataman, who was born in Germany after her parents emigrated from Turkey. “But it’s very bitter news. Effectively, he’s unable to take part in our democratic process, which is a damning verdict on our society.”

Ataman, who wrote the book Ich bin von hier. Hört auf zu fragen! (I’m From Here. Stop Asking!), is the director of Neue deutsche Medienmacher, an organization that advocates for diversity in the media and politics and offers support to journalists facing racist threats. She said they have a long way to go.

Shrugging off blackface

Two days after Alaows stepped aside, a public television station in the southern region of Bavaria aired an ostensibly satirical sketch about the election featuring a comedian in blackface. The comic was portraying a fictional Black dictator.

The public media network, Bayerischer Rundfunk, told NPR that the comedian stands behind his decision to appear in blackface because “as a satirist” it’s his “job to present things in an exaggerated way.”

Ataman said the broadcaster’s decision to air the sketch is indefensible.

“Unfortunately, blackfacing on television here is not that unusual, and it’s only just starting to be questioned,” she said. “I think that says everything about where Germany is when it comes to tackling racism.”

Ataman said another glaring sign that racism is ingrained in society is the disproportionate representation of minorities in politics. She said between 92% and 96% of state and federal lawmakers are white, even though people with what’s referred to here as a “migration background” make up 26% of Germany’s population.

Those are not the only issues. The latest annual report by the government’s anti-discrimination agency indicated racist attacks were on the rise. Ataman said racism is wide-ranging, from everyday microaggressions to institutionalized discrimination and racial profiling in policing to de facto segregation in schools. Germany has also seen anti-Muslim and anti-refugee protests by a group called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA. And it has witnessed far-right extremist attacks such as those the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi group, got away with for almost a decade until its only surviving leader was convicted in 2018.

In 2019, Walter Lübcke, a pro-refugee regional lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, was assassinated by a far-right extremist outside his home following a series of death threats.

Journalists with minority backgrounds have also received threats. Die Zeit columnist Mely Kiyak — who was born in Germany to Kurdish parents — turned the hate mail she received into a theater show called Hate Poetry in which she and fellow journalists of color read the abuse in front an audience.

Another withdrawn candidacy

Another politician who has left the political arena because of racism is Sener Sahin. Last year, he dropped out of the race for mayor in the Bavarian town of Wallerstein. Sahin, who’s Muslim, was intending to run for the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to the CDU.

“When I announced my candidacy, there was a huge outcry from fellow CSU council members who said the C for CSU stands for Christian — not Muslim,” Sahin said. “So, I withdrew from the race before it really started. I didn’t want to cause a rift in our town.”

Sahin, an engineer whose parents are from Turkey, was born in Germany but said he is still considered an outsider.

“They didn’t like my name, my background or my faith,” he said. “That hurt, of course, because I knew that if I were named Thomas Müller, they’d have supported me.”

He said he’s not one to bear grudges though. He magnanimously jokes that a year later his last name is now trending because of Ugur Sahin, the immunologist and founder of the German company BioNTech, which developed a COVID-19 vaccine with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer. (The two men are not related despite their shared surname, he added.)

Filiz Keküllüoglu, co-founder of a group working to empower minorities, women, trans and other marginalized people in the Green Party, said cases such as Sener Sahin’s and Alaows’ are typical and that political parties need to take a hard look at themselves.

“Every political party in Germany is far whiter than society, and this is a major deficit in our democracy,” Keküllüoglu said. “We work with established politicians within the Green Party, people willing to question their own privileges who are open to power sharing.” With polls suggesting the Greens could win enough seats in September to enter a coalition government with the CDU and CSU conservative alliance, Keküllüoglu said their diversity initiative may end up working overtime.

Markus Söder, the state governor of Bavaria and leader of the CSU who just backed out of the race to succeed Merkel as chancellor, attended a carnival event in 2015 dressed as Mahatma Gandhi in brownface.

Similar incidents in countries such as the United States and Canada are considered offensive and spark public outcries. But Ataman said the fact that Söder’s appearance in brownface was barely raised during his candidacy is symbolic of a wider lack of anti-racist awareness within German politics and society.

As for Alaows, it was not just overt hate that prevented him from running in the election, he said, but also the racist structures the country has failed to question. In a statement announcing his withdrawal, he said, “My candidacy showed that in all parties in politics and across society, strong structures are needed to confront racism and help those affected.”

Source: Germany Grapples With Racism After Threats Derail Refugee’s Candidacy For Parliament

‘Enough is enough’: new group aims to open path for Filipino-Canadian candidates in next federal election

Of note. Nine ridings have 10 percent or more Filipino-Canadians (Filipino population greater than 10 percent):

Ignore Filipino-Canadian candidates at your own peril: that’s the message a new political action group is sending to federal parties, as jockeying for nomination races for the next election gets underway in earnest.

The Filipino community could be a decisive political force for whichever party manages to rally it, say two of the founders of the Filipino Canadian Political Association, a new group devoted to breaking down barriers that have left the community without representation in Parliament since 2004.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Grant Gonzales, a second-generation Filipino-Canadian in Toronto who is serving as the chief spokesperson for the group.

More than 837,000 Canadians identified as having a Filipino ethnic origin in the 2016 census, about 2.5 per cent of the population. More than 100,000 people from the Philippines have been given permanent resident status in Canada since then.

The 2016 Filipino population was bigger than the margin of victory in the last election in 37 federal ridings, including nine of the 25 most competitive races, according to an FCPA analysis of data from Statistics Canada and Elections Canada.

The group issued a press release on April 6 calling on political parties to nominate Filipino-Canadian candidates in winnable ridings ahead of the next election, which could come later this year. The data analysis was included in the release.

“Parties have attempted to activate us [in the past], but it’s always to support another candidate from a different community, not necessarily one of our own,” said Paul Saguil, another co-founder of the FCPA who is also running for the Liberal Party nomination in Brampton Centre, in an interview with The Hill Times.

“The information is there for party organizers to now think about very carefully. Knowing these demographics, why wouldn’t you run a Filipino-Canadian to activate these populations in favour of your party?” he said.

The two men founded the group along with Joseph Guiyab last fall, after the Liberal Party appointed former TV broadcaster Marci Ien as its candidate for a byelection in Toronto Centre. That appointment shut the door on an open nomination contest for would-be candidates including Mr. Saguil, who later stepped back from another nomination contest in Don Valley East when Liberal MPP Michael Coteau announced that he would be running there.

Mr. Saguil said Ms. Ien’s appointment, as well as other unsuccessful attempts by Filipino-Canadians to secure party nominations, played a role in the formation of the group. Mr. Gonzales was more explicit.

“That [appointment] drove a lot of sentiment around how difficult it is for racialized communities, especially Filipino-Canadians, to get into office,” he said. “We thought, ‘enough is enough,’ let’s start more intentionally bringing attention to these issues, this gap in representation.”

Both men said they held no ill will toward Ms. Ien, who went on to win the Toronto Centre byelection. Ms. Ien is Black, and Black Canadians are also underrepresented in Parliament: Black Canadians account for 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population, but hold only five—or 1.5 per cent—of the 338 seats in the House of Commons.

Mr. Gonzales said he wants to see the parties make it easier for Filipino-Canadians to run, whether that means making an appointment, as was the case for Ms. Ien, or just doing more to recruit Filipino candidates.

Filipino-Canadians have won seats in provincial legislatures and municipal councils in Canada, including Mable Elmore, B.C.’s first Filipino MLA. Some have secured nominations to run for federal parties, including Julius Tiangson, who ran for the Conservatives in York Centre in a byelection last year, and is running to secure the party’s nomination in that riding for the next election. Mr. Tiangson did not respond to an interview request last week.

Federal ridings contain an average of about 112,000 people. A perfectly representative House of Commons would have eight MPs from the Filipino community. There are currently none, and there has been only one in Canadian history: Rey Pagtakhan, who represented Winnipeg’s north end for the Liberals from 1988 to 2004.

“It’s the same conversation we have when we’re talking about women in politics. The number of times they need to be asked to run for office, because of the barriers, the attitudes that they face when they run for office,” said Mr. Gonzales.

“If you have a political party reaching out to you and saying, ‘we’d be interested in having you run for a nomination contest,’ well that adds a lot of confidence already to a candidate.”

In the meantime, Mr. Saguil said he wants the FCPA to be able to fill some of that void left by the parties, providing information and connections to Filipino-Canadians who are thinking about a run in politics.

The FCPA is still in its infancy as an organization, and does not yet have a network of volunteers and supporters broad enough to move votes in swing ridings on its own. It has not yet begun to raise money, and does not have paid staff.

The three founders have reached out to leaders within the community and had conversations with some people in federal politics, including Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, said Mr. Gonzales.

FCPA will have to show community can be mobilized: NDP strategist Romeo Tello

All three founders of the FCPA are Toronto residents with Liberal ties. Mr. Gonzales said they want the organization to be cross-partisan, and operate across the country.

The organization isn’t aiming to sway votes toward one party or another, said Mr. Saguil, but rather draw political parties’ attention to the Filipino community’s power in closely-contested ridings.

“There’s a lot of pride in our community. And when they see someone putting their name forward, and when they see a party actively putting someone forward because they want the support of the Filipino-Canadian community, then it’s a natural expectation that they’ll want to rally behind someone, whichever standard that they’re representing,” he said.

“If I’m thinking strategically for these ridings, and I want to make sure that there is no margin of error for the next election, why wouldn’t I be asking the party leadership, ‘Where is our Filipino-Canadian candidate who would help rally this population?’” said Mr. Saguil.

To be effective, the group will have to show parties the political power held by the Filipino community, said Romeo Tello, a Filipino-Canadian who has worked on provincial and federal campaigns for the NDP.

“It’s all around having conversations, and growing a network of people who can move to action on any given issue,” said Mr. Tello, who is not a member of the FCPA.

Many Filipino-Canadians work in manufacturing or front-line service industry jobs, said Mr. Tello. Filipino women fill many of the country’s front-line health and care-giving jobs, as nurses, personal support workers, and live-in caregivers.  Data released by the province of Manitoba show Filipino-Canadians have been infected by COVID-19 at a higher rate than the general population.

Younger generation ready to run: Saguil

Mr. Gonzales wants the FCPA to follow the path charted by other ethnic political interest groups in Canada. Jewish Canadians have long been represented by effective lobby groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. Ukrainian Canadians have the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Punjabi Sikhs have become a political force in their own right in Canada.

The Filipino communities across Canada do not have some of the advantages that organizers in those other ethnic groups have wielded so effectively. Filipino-Canadians are numerous, but spread out across the country: Winnipeg North and Winnipeg Centre are the only ridings in which Filipinos account for 20 per cent of the population or more.

The Philippines has been among the top source countries for immigrants to Canada for most of the past 20 years. Still, the community is a relatively young one, and many of those who have immigrated to Canada from the Philippines have been focused on carving out a life for themselves in a new country, said Mr. Saguil.

Running for office requires financial resources, and connections with political parties and other communities. “All of those things take literally one person’s lifetime, if not more, to accumulate,” said Mr. Saguil.

“That’s what we mean by systemic barriers in the FCPA. Other communities in Canada have had generations to accumulate what we’ll call collectively this political capital.”

The younger generation who immigrated with their parents—including Mr. Saguil—or were born in Canada are now more ready and able to step into the political fray, he said.

Mr. Saguil will face tough competition for the Liberal nomination in Brampton Centre. The riding was created as part of the 2013 electoral boundary realignment. It is currently held by Independent MP Ramesh Sangha, who was kicked out of the Liberal caucus earlier this year over remarks he made about some of his fellow Liberal MPs. Mr. Sangha won it as a Liberal candidate by double-digit margins in both the 2015 and 2019 elections. All five of Brampton’s MPs are Indo-Canadian.

Two other Liberals have started a campaign for the nomination in Brampton Centre so far: Amin Dhillon, a multimedia personality and former Miss India Worldwide Canada, and businessman Nasir Hussain.

Indo-Canadians are the most numerous ethnic group in Brampton, outnumbering Filipinos almost 10-to-one in the city. The Brampton Indo-Canadian community includes veteran political organizers and fundraisers.

Mr. Saguil said he has built a “broad coalition” of support already for his nomination bid, including volunteers and organizers from the Punjabi, Black, and Pakistani communities, and Filipino-Canadians from across the country.

If his odds of winning the nomination are long, the payoff of a victory could be great for Mr. Saguil. The last two elections suggest that the next Liberal candidate in Brampton Centre will have a good chance at winning.

Mr. Saguil is the deputy head of TD Bank’s global sanctions compliance and anti-corruption program, as well as a lawyer and a gay rights activist. MPs from under-represented communities who have impressive resumes are often good candidates for a cabinet appointment, even as political rookies. Procurement Minister Anita Anand (Oakville. Ont.), who boasts a resume a mile long, and was made Canada’s first Hindu cabinet minister shortly after winning her first election in 2019, is one recent example.

Source: ‘Enough is enough’: new group aims to open path for Filipino-Canadian candidates in next federal election

Quebec politicians denounce rise in online hate as Ottawa prepares to act

Ironic given some of the political discourse in Quebec:

Death threats over an animal control plan, personal insults over stop signs, social media attacks targeting spouses — these are examples of what politicians in Quebec say has become an increasingly difficult reality of their jobs during COVID-19.

From suburban mayors to the premier, politicians in the province have been raising the alarm about the rise in hateful and occasionally violent online messages they receive — and some are calling for stronger rules to shield them.

On Saturday, Premier Francois Legault denounced the torrent of hateful messages that regularly follow his online posts, which he said has worsened “in the last months.”

“Each time I post something now, I’m treated to an avalanche of aggressive and sometimes even violent comments, and to insults, obscenities and sometimes threats,” Legault wrote on Facebook.

Several Quebec municipal politicians have announced they won’t be running again in elections this fall, in part because of the hostile climate online. Others, including the mayors of Montreal and Quebec City, have spoken in the past about receiving death threats. In November, police in Longueuil, Que., arrested a man in connection with threats against the city’s mayor and other elected officials over a plan to cull deer in a municipal park.

Philippe Roy, the mayor of the Town of Mount-Royal, an on-island Montreal suburb, says he’s leaving municipal politics when his current term ends, partly because of the constant online insults directed at him and his spouse.

While taking criticism is part of the job, he said he’s seen a shift in the past two years toward more falsehoods and conspiracy theories, which he said are undermining the trust between elected officials and their constituents. After 16 years in politics, he said he’s tired of the constant accusations directed his way.

“When people are questioning your integrity, you start saying, ‘Well, maybe I have better things to do somewhere else,’ ” he said in a recent interview.

The problem is serious enough that the group representing Quebec municipalities has launched an awareness campaign and drafted a resolution denouncing the online vitriol. It has so far been adopted by some 260 municipal councils.

Suzanne Roy, the group’s president, says the campaign was launched in response to a “flood of testimonials” from mayors and councillors about an increase in abuse and hate speech during the pandemic.

She attributes the phenomenon to a rise in “stress and frustration.”

“People, without having the proper tools to manage their stress, will let off steam on social media and write inappropriate statements towards decisions taken at city council about a stop sign at the wrong place, a hole in the road, everything,” she said in a phone interview.

Roy, who is mayor of Ste-Julie on Montreal’s South Shore, said she experienced the perils of social media firsthand earlier this year when someone stole her identity online and posted anti-COVID conspiracy theories from her Facebook account.

She is among those pushing for stronger rules to combat hate speech, and for platforms such as Facebook to take quicker action to remove hateful comments or restore someone’s identity when it’s stolen. She said the platforms need to take down the messages as soon as they appear to ensure debate remains respectful and false messages aren’t spread.

“It’s a question of debate and a question of democracy,” she said.

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised to introduce new legislation to combat hate speech this spring.

In an interview Tuesday, he said the legislation will define five categories of illegal online activities and create a regulator. The regulator’s job would include pushing online platforms to respect the law and to remove hateful messages within 24 hours.

He said the bill’s goal is to take stronger actions against hate speech, child porn and non-consensual sharing of intimate images. He was careful to say that it would not tackle misinformation, saying it’s not the government’s job to “legislate information.”

Guilbeault said his government has also had to contend with critics who accuse the government of wanting to limit free speech, a charge he denies. Rather, he says the aim of the legislation is to ensure that laws, such as those against hate speech, are applied online as they are in the real world — something he argues will protect free speech rather than stifle it.

“Right now in the virtual world and, I’m sad to say, in the physical world, we’re seeing the safety and security of Canadians is being compromised, that freedom of speech is being affected online,” he said in a phone interview.

“We’re seeing it now with Quebec politicians who say, ‘No, no I don’t want to run for politics, it’s so violent.'” He said the chilling effect extends to equity-seeking groups and racialized Canadians, many of whom avoid the platforms because they’re constant targets of abuse.

“How does that protect free speech?” he asked. “Well, it doesn’t.”

Suzanne Roy says her group, the Union des municipalities du Quebec, gives new councillors some training on how to manage social media accounts, including advice on handling adversarial situations. She says the advice generally includes not getting into debates online and instead steering people to more formal channels to express their opinions, such as city council meetings and public consultations.

Philippe Roy, the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Mont-Royal, says that while there appear to be strong candidates to take his place, he’s already met people who have been discouraged from running by the prospect of online hate — something that bodes poorly for the future if the problem isn’t tackled.

“We’re losing people who could give back to the community, and that’s one of the threats that comes from this situation,” he said.

Source: Quebec politicians denounce rise in online hate as Ottawa prepares to act

A seat at the table: inside efforts to boost diversity, Black representation in federal candidate nominations

We will likely see the extent to which these efforts improve representation in the expected election later this year:

Achieving a representative House of Commons requires diversity among the candidates nominated for election, and since 2019, new efforts are being made both within political parties and beyond to increase diversity, including Black representation, in federal politics.

But new rules only go as far as a party has the will to take them, and Samara Centre for Democracy research manager Adelina Petit-Vouriot notes that between 2004 and 2015, only 17 per cent of all candidates were nominated through “clear contests.”

“I’m skeptical of whatever rules and procedures parties put in place for themselves, because, at the end of the day, they’re often not followed and it’s up to parties themselves to regulate their nomination rules,” said Ms. Petit-Vouriot. “There’s often many loopholes or rationales that they can use to appoint many candidates and to reduce the competitiveness and openness of their nomination contests.”

In 2019, based on a dataset compiled by Samara, The Hill Times, and McGill University’s Jerome Black, roughly 15.7 per cent of all candidates who ran for the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, the Bloc Québécois, and the People’s Party were from a visible minority group, compared to 12.9 per cent in 2015.

Looking specifically to Black representation, 49 candidates in 2019 identified as Black: 21 ran for the NDP, 11 for the Greens, seven for the Liberals, six for the People’s Party, and two each for the Conservatives and Bloc. In the end, five Black MPs were re-elected (all were incumbents), making up just 1.5 per cent of the House. (Liberal MP Marci Ien’s byelection win last year brings that to six MPs, or 1.7 per cent.) Based on the 2016 Census, Black Canadians make up 3.5 per cent of the population. 

Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote (OBV), noted many Black candidates in 2019 were incumbents, meaning parties largely “didn’t bring in new people,” and the number ultimately elected dropped. Overall, she gave parties a “C” grade for their efforts.

“It’s extremely important for the government to have different people, different voices—in particular Black Canadian voices—at decision-making tables, so when policies come out, it doesn’t adversely affect Black communities,” said Ms. Morgan, and for the opposition, diverse voices are key to holding the government accountable for issues affecting the Black community.

“We could do a lot better in ensuring that we have more Black candidates. There’s a lot of Black Canadians who are willing and able to run, and they just need to feel as if they’re welcomed and will be supported when they run.”

Diversity was a key plank in Green Party Leader Annamie Paul’s recent leadership campaign. When she took her party’s helm on Oct. 3, she became the first Black woman to lead a federal party in Canada.

“It was and remains a big commitment of mine to make sure that our party is truly diverse,” she told The Hill Times. While the party’s record on diversity historically has been “not great,” she said one of the reasons she believes she was elected leader was her background in working to increase diversity in politics.

After the 2019 election, the Greens launched an internal review of all party processes, including those related to candidate recruitment—an effort Ms. Paul brought her weight of experience to last October. Ms. Paul previously founded the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership, aimed at helping equity-seeking groups pursue public office, and in 2019 became a co-architect of OBV’s 1834 Fellowship Program, aimed at preparing Black youth for civic leadership. 

With its review, the party wanted to set the “gold standard in terms of best practices for diversity and inclusion,” said Ms. Paul, and that meant filtering “every single” party policy and process through a “diversity and inclusion lens,” to understand the “minutia” of the different barriers to inclusion. 

“You really have to look at it holistically. How are you reaching out to potential candidates? Which communities are you reaching out to? It’s even the small things: what is the wording of your nomination package?”

The process led to the creation of a Candidate Support Form requiring riding associations to provide detailed information on available resources to nomination candidates; longer nomination periods; a riding association guide on recruiting and retaining candidates and volunteers from equity-seeking groups, which associations must confirm they have received and reviewed; and a rule that nomination contests with only one candidate can only be closed if that candidate is from an equity-seeking group or unless the riding association is determined to have made all reasonable efforts, among other things. There is no application fee to run for nomination.

“You might look at something and not see on the face of it what it has to do with that, but, for instance, having a particular spending limit for pre-campaigning, that’s something that’s going to make a difference,” said Ms. Paul.

On. Feb. 5, the Greens launched a national candidate recruitment drive, “Time to Run,” which Ms. Paul described as the “marquee element” in its attempts to ensure candidate diversity, not just along racial and ethnic lines, but “socio-economic, regional, gender identity, work—we’re looking for a new kind of person to run.” 

“I’m really proud of the work that we did—I highly recommend it to every political party. We already feel the impact of that and definitely, we wanted to make sure it was reflected in our candidate recruitment for the next election,” said Ms. Paul.

Often, parties’ attempts to increase representation come in the form of diversity search committees for nomination races, said Ms. Petit-Vouriot, which “isn’t necessarily a solution in and of itself.” 

“There are larger issues at play than simply inviting candidates who are from underrepresented groups to involve themselves in politics,” she said. 

The probable circumstances of the next election are also likely to “reduce the possibility of newcomers getting involved,” said Ms. Petit-Vouriot, as snap elections often mean shorter nomination campaigns and more appointed candidates. COVID-19 has complicated fundraising efforts for political parties themselves and could “really hurt less established candidates, she said, “those who might not have those political connections, or the connections to finances.”

‘These things don’t happen by accident’: McGrath

The NDP—whose leader, Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) became the first racialized federal leader in Canada in 2017—performed best among the federal parties in candidate diversity in 2019, with visible minority groups accounting for 22.8 per cent of its slate.

While NDP national director Anne McGrath touted the party’s record, she said as it works to nominate candidates, “we would like to do even better this time, and we’re working hard on it.” 

“It’s really a matter of being kind of dogged and persevering to make sure that equity and diversity are at the top of everybody’s agenda when we’re searching for candidates and organizing nominations,” she said.

Before a riding association can request a nomination meeting, NDP rules require at least one declared nomination candidate be from an equity-seeking group, and the party has an equity policy, with the stated goal of having at least 50 per cent of all federal candidates be women, trans, or non-binary individuals. The policy also sets a goal that women, trans, or non-binary individuals be candidates in at least 60 per cent of ridings deemed reasonably winnable, and a goal to have candidates who “reflect the diversity of Canada” in at least 30 per cent of reasonably winnable ridings, with “special attention” to be given to ensure “equity-seeking candidates” are nominated in ridings where an incumbent isn’t seeking re-election. 

A lot of the work to ensure diversity happens at the “grassroots level,” said Ms. McGrath, but “at the same time, we also at the leadership level do make approaches to candidates that we see kind of emerging, whether its in the African-Canadian community … in the BIPOC community.”

“These things don’t happen by accident. Unless you are really intentional and focused on making sure that you have a diverse slate that represents the makeup of the country, it’s not going to happen,” said Ms. McGrath.

A key ask in Operation Black Vote’s upcoming call to federal parties—a rehash of its 2019 asks, which Ms. Morgan noted weren’t achieved—is asking them to run Black candidates in winnable ridings.

“Just running a Black candidate isn’t enough for us, they need to run in ridings that the parties deem is winnable for them,” she said. Running Black candidates in ridings long held by another party is just “a check mark.” 

Among other calls related to ensuring Black representation among senior political staff and the public service, Ms. Morgan said OBV is asking parties to ensure Black candidates get support and mentorship, and “get nominated early enough so that they can actually engage in their riding.” 

Since 2019, the Liberal Party has expanded a rule in its nomination search criteria for unheld ridings that says no nomination meeting can be called until an electoral district association (EDA) demonstrates, with “documented evidence,” a “thorough search” for candidates who are underrepresented in the House, including candidates who are “women; Black, Indigenous, or people of colour; LGBTQ2; people with disabilities; and marginalized communities.” Previously, this rule only extended to women.

Braeden Caley, senior communications director for the Liberal Party, said the change is “absolutely” having an impact on current nomination efforts.

“That rule is one aspect of it, as well as a lot of work by field organizers, EDA chairs, local volunteers, to fulfill the recruitment of that search, to approach community leaders from all different backgrounds who reflect the demographics of their community, who reflect communities who are underrepresented in Parliament,” said Mr. Caley.

Of the 83 Liberal candidates nominated to run next election as of Feb. 5, Mr. Caley noted 43 are women and 22 do not identify as white; within that, three identify as Black (all incumbents) and three as Indigenous. 

In 2019, racialized people made up 18.9 per cent of the Liberal slate; overall, 2.1 per cent were Black and 5.3 per cent were Indigenous. So far, 26.5 per cent of candidates nominated are not white, and Black and Indigenous candidates each make up 3.6 per cent.

“There have been some incredibly important conversations about that [how to reduce barriers to increase diversity], not just since the last election, but over the last year in particular. A lot of it has to do with meeting the standard of this rule, but it’s not only this rule that will make that possible, it’s about a concerted effort by volunteers,” including bringing more diversity to the political process overall, from campaign managers to riding association boards, said Mr. Caley. 

Two years ago, he noted, the party launched a “Safe Campaigns” initiative, involving training for candidates and campaign teams “to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background … is able to participate in campaigns and the party in a way that feels safe to them and inclusive and welcoming at all times.” 

Asked about efforts to run diverse candidates in winnable ridings, Mr. Caley pointed to recent federal byelections—like Liberal MP Marci Ien’s 2020 win in Toronto Centre, Ont., and Trade Minister Mary Ng’s 2017 win in Markham-Thornhill, Ont.—as evidence of such efforts. 

The Conservative Party’s nomination rules make no mention of diversity or considerations for equity-seeking groups. Requirements to run for the Conservatives include a $1,000 “good conduct bond,” which is generally returned, an interview process, and 25 local signatures. (The Liberals’ application fee is a non-refundable $1,500; the NDP doesn’t have one.) 

Like the Liberals, the Conservatives protect incumbent MPs by acclaiming them if they meet certain criteria.

Ms. Petit-Vouriot noted that, with incumbents often protected, it means “safer seats go to those who have already ‘made it,’ and that can help preserve inequalities in representation under gender, ethnicity, Indigeneity lines.”

As of Feb. 3, the Conservatives had 150 candidates nominated. Cory Hann, communications director for the party, said a breakdown of candidate demographics could be provided after the full list is released (as of Feb. 8, the party had announced 54), but noted “Conservative supporters and staff have been asked to work their networks and encourage people from all backgrounds to get involved in our local campaigns, whether that’s as a candidate or campaigner.” 

“The candidates we’ve nominated so far all have varying backgrounds both professionally and personally, and we’re proud of that,” he said. 

New Conservative groups aims to boost representation

Outside the party, new efforts are being made to bring Black Canadians into the fold with the recent launch of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada—a spin-off group from the Canada Black Congress founded by former CPC leadership contender Leslyn Lewis in 2009. (Ms. Lewis, a co-founder of the new group, has been nominated to run in the longtime Conservative riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, Ont.)

National chair Tunde Obasan said the congress aims to educate Black Canadians on Conservative values and encourage them to join “the Conservative family across the country.” 

Mr. Obasan said he was involved in former leader Andrew Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) 2017 leadership campaign and Ms. Lewis’ 2020 bid, and “each time,” when he reached out to Black Canadians, the feedback he got was “not encouraging.” People would question why he was supporting the party, and tell him “you don’t belong there,” he said. 

“I went back with those feedback and actually looked deep … ‘do I actually belong to the Conservative Party? Or [do] I belong somewhere else?’ And I found that, in reality, I actually belong to the Conservative Party, because that is the only party that supports who I am, that supports my values as a person, right. And I know that all these, my values represent, it’s very similar to most immigrants, particularly Black Canadians,” said Mr. Obasan, who immigrated to Canada from Nigeria in 2012. 

Mr. Obasan said he then wondered why Black Canadians he spoke with instead turned to other parties, and to his view, “the only thing I found is this: there is not enough representation of them within the Conservative family, and based on that, they just believe that they don’t belong there.”

It’s something Mr. Obasan said his organization aims to change, by reaching out to grassroots organizations and encouraging Black Canadians to become party members and to run (though he said currently, efforts are focused on the former). From what he’s seen of nomination contests for the next election so far, he thinks representation among CPC candidates will “definitely be better than 2019,” for a number of reasons, including Ms. Lewis’ leadership run. Mr. Obasan noted he’s seeking the party’s nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, Alta., a currently NDP-held riding where former CPC leadership candidate Rick Peterson is also running.

Asked if he’d like to see the Conservatives introduce nomination rules to try to ensure diversity, Mr. Obasan said it’s “not something we have considered at this time … we are not asking for special consideration.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) spoke at the congress’ Jan. 24 virtual launch, as did MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, among others. Roughly 300 people took part, said Mr. Obasan, and during the event, he raised the 2019 stats for Black candidates, and the fact the CPC only nominated two, “and I said that this is something that we want to change.”

“[Mr. O’Toole] was there from beginning to end … for him to stay the entire event, that means that he’s concerned about the community and he wants to hear our concerns,” said Mr. Obasan.

Ms. Morgan said since her organization launched in 2004, she thinks there’s “been some movement” in improving representation in federal politics, but that’s largely thanks to efforts by organizations like OBV and “a push from the community, than it is a push from political parties.” 

Source: A seat at the table: inside efforts to boost diversity, Black representation in federal candidate nominations

Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes in BC election

One element:

The B.C. Liberal party executive is calling on members and supporters to join “open and honest conversations” and “serious and exciting debates” about the party future.

But two recent statements from Liberals — one a defeated MLA, the other a former candidate — may be more honest and exciting than the current leadership can survive.

Taking direct aim at party leader Andrew Wilkinson was Jane Thornthwaite, beaten in her bid for a fourth term as Liberal MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour.

Source: Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes

Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds

Good piece by Mike Morden of Samara:

After the votes are counted tonight, 338 candidates will be headed to Ottawa to claim their seats as members of Parliament. The other 1500-plus candidates will be headed home. For some of them, that will mean coming to terms with a rough financial picture.

Running for office in a competitive campaign is very expensive. Serious candidates have to leave or quit their jobs, forgoing income for weeks or months. Some won’t have jobs to return to, if they weren’t fortunate in having flexible employers. The self-employed will have to make up for lost time and lost clients.

Drumming up sympathy for politicians is a difficult business. But it’s important to see the costs of standing for election, because those costs mean that few of us will ever be in a financial position to run — or to do so seriously. Our political class is drawn from those who have the means. The result is a form of underrepresentation in our national politics that often goes unnoticed or unchallenged. We need to find ways to make running for office more accessible.

The Samara Centre has been working with research partners and a team of volunteers to compile demographic profiles of all 2019 federal candidates in the major parties, based on information made public in candidates’ biographies. This data, which is not yet published, reveals the predicted underrepresentations — of women, Indigenous people and people of colour. But it also reflects class- and occupation-based underrepresentations. We can’t identify the income levels of candidates, of course, but we can make some inferences based on the information available to us.

For example, on the basis of publicly available information alone, it becomes clear that most candidates hold one or more university degrees; by comparison,  fewer than 30 percent of working-age Canadians have those credentials. Lawyers, entrepreneurs and private sector executives are well represented among candidates. So are office holders from other levels of government, and some middle-class professionals like teachers. But what about service workers in retail or hospitality? What about child care workers, or tradespeople? They’re largely absent from Canada’s political class.

None of this is remotely surprising. But it should bother us more than it does.

Education and income are strong predictors of Canadians’ attitudes toward political issues and of their general views of Canadian democracy. They are stronger predictors, in many cases, than the other identities we carry. There’s evidence that working-class politicians behave differently in office, that their life experiences inform different priorities. Our white-collar parties and Parliament make substantively different decisions than they would with a more economically diverse membership. And working-class Canadians don’t see themselves reflected in their leaders, strengthening the existing tendency toward greater political dissatisfaction and distrust.

These demographic absences are reflected in how politics is done, and for whom. Indeed, the lack of a lived experience of the working class is apparent in the political discourse today, which has become peculiarly conscious of just a single class: the middle class (whoever that is). It’s also reflected in the woolly notions held by political elites about what a working-class Canadian is in 2019 (it almost always involves a hard hat).

Much of the responsibility for recruiting a more diverse candidate slate falls to the parties. But fixing economic underrepresentation, deliberately and through policy, is not easy. It involves wrestling with social and economic structures that are pervasive and deeply entrenched — beyond the reach of most available political reforms.

Nevertheless, we can think creatively about policy avenues to make political candidacy more affordable and more accessible. We can start by replacing some of the income that is lost when someone seeks office. Employment insurance provides income support for people who are unexpectedly unemployed. But it is also a tool to replace income for people who have to step away from work temporarily, to do something that is personally costly but beneficial to society — like raising a baby or caring for a sick family member. This logic can be applied to political candidacy.

The federal government should consider a new carve-out in the Employment Insurance Act, to allow registered (non-incumbent) candidates for federal, provincial and municipal elections, if they are otherwise eligible for EI, to collect it for a limited period (say, for a maximum of 50 days, which is also the maximum length of a federal campaign). Right now, candidates aren’t formally disqualified from collecting EI. But they have to be available for work and job-searching in the usual ways while collecting the benefit. Anyone who is truly campaigning full-time, with the goal of actually winning and holding office, is essentially ruled out.

This should be changed. There would be some potential for abuse, but that’s no different from the conventional uses of EI. In fact, when it becomes necessary, distinguishing between real and fake candidates would be, relatively speaking, easier to adjudicate.

It’s really important that good people put their hands up to run in our elections. It’s really important that those people aren’t only the relatively wealthy. Replacing candidates’ income is a small change. Obviously, it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the huge structural obstacles facing working-class Canadians: precarious employment, lack of time and a want of political resources like personal access and fundraising networks, to name a few. The take-up would likely be small. And it may prove that more targeted measures are needed to move the needle on working-class representation.

But it’s a simple policy step to help relieve the immediate financial costs of candidacy. It would also send a message to some of the people who most need to hear it: that whatever the political class looks like today, it’s supposed to be of you, and for you — and, in fact, it needs you.

Source: Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds