Want more diversity in politics? Start by looking at political parties: Tolley

Good piece by Tolley. The only other point I would add is that visible minority candidates tend to run in ridings with significant numbers of visible minorities and immigrants, where likely the local riding party memberships reflect that diversity:

The 2015 federal election saw a record number of women, Indigenous peoples, and racialized Canadians elected to the House of Commons. When he selected his ministry, Justin Trudeau lauded it as “a cabinet that looks like Canada.” These gains are notable, but they should not be taken for granted. There are still representational gaps: women, Indigenous peoples, and racialized Canadians all occupy proportionately fewer seats in the House of Commons than their share of the Canadian population.

To get at the root of electoral under-representation, forget the electoral system. You need to look no further than Canada’s political parties. Parties control access to the House of Commons because they select nearly all of the candidates who appear on the ballot. Even so, the processes that parties use to recruit and select candidates are so opaque that the nomination stage has been referred to as the “black box” of Canadian politics. One thing is clear: if there is a representational deficit in the House of Commons, it’s because when parties nominate candidates, the ones they choose are still disproportionately white and male.

The problem isn’t voter bias. Of course voters harbour prejudice, but on election day, their preference for a particular party or leader tends to override whatever reservations they might have about a candidate’s race, gender, or demographic background. As a result, researchers have largely concluded that when women and minorities run, they win. What this means is that if parties nominated more diverse candidate slates, there would be more diversity in Parliament. The representational gap begins with parties, and the demographic mismatch between Parliament and the population only widens as prospective candidates move through each stage of recruitment, beginning with the decision to run for office and continuing until the ballots are counted.

Parties are not obligated to release data on the diversity of their candidate slates, so researchers and journalists are left to tally the statistics. They do this by consulting candidate biographies and other publicly available information, but even then, it’s hard to compile a full picture beyond the three main parties. In 2015, our best estimates suggest that at least 80 per cent of candidates were white, and 70 per cent were men.

Data compiled by the author, using candidate biographies and other publicly available sources. Women of colour includes both Indigenous and racialized women.

So, why don’t parties nominate more women and minorities? In some cases, political parties underestimate the electoral prospects of candidates who don’t fit the profile of the prototypical politician. There is also evidence that they filter women into unwinnable ridings and pigeonhole racialized candidates into only the most diverse districts. Gatekeeping matters.

My research shows that racialized candidates are more likely to emerge when the party’s riding association president is also racialized; otherstudies confirm that women riding association presidents are positively related to the selection of women candidates. Perhaps it’s because women and racialized gatekeepers have more diverse networks and can draw on these resources when identifying potential candidates, but it also appears that under-represented groups respond more positively to recruitment from gatekeepers with backgrounds like their own. Diverse local party leadership might also signal the party’s openness to a variety of candidates.

Despite this, my own research suggests that at least three-quarters of riding association presidents—the most prominent local party gatekeepers—are white and male. Candidate search committees typically assist riding association presidents, but the face of local recruitment efforts is still relatively homogenous. Parties might have more success in their efforts to recruit candidates with a wider range of characteristics and life experiences if the executives of their local riding associations were themselves more diverse.

The NDP has tried to tackle the challenge through an equity policy that commits to running women candidates in at least 50 per cent of all districts, and members of other equity groups in a further 30 per cent; “equity groups” is a catch-all for racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, individuals who are LGBTQ, and youth. Although in 2015, the party nominated more women candidates than either the Liberals or the Conservatives, they nominated the fewest racialized minorities. This suggests that even an explicit commitment to more diversity is not enough. In 2017, the Liberals and Conservatives defeated a private member’s bill that would financially penalize parties for not running more women candidates

Other less formal means have also been tried. For example, prior to the last election, the federal Liberals launched an initiative called #AskHer. The idea was simple and grounded in research that shows women candidates need far more encouragement to run for office than men do. The Liberal Party asked Canadians to identify qualified women candidates whom they thought the party should approach to run. From these submitted names, just one woman—Celina Caesar-Chavannes— was ultimately elected as a Member of Parliament.

Parties have long been the gatekeepers to elected office, but apart from requiring them to disclose the names of their donors and abide by some basic electoral rules, there is little—aside from public pressure—to hold them to account. The 2019 election is an opportunity to do so. How many candidates from equity-seeking groups did parties approach and encourage to run for office? What measures are they putting in place to recruit diverse candidates to office? And how are parties supporting new candidates, whether that’s through training, a financial contribution, or volunteers? Last election, parties told voters to #AskHer. This time, we need to ask more of parties.

Source: Want more diversity in politics? Start by looking at political parties

Journalists inherit ‘institutional blindspots’ that cloud coverage of race in politics, says media expert

From the Hill Times, Erin Tolley on blindspots, myself on diversityvotes.ca and others:

Increasing the diversity of newsrooms isn’t a cure-all for improving political coverage of racialized people, says a media expert, who argues that journalists often end up inheriting the institutional blindspots of the outlets they work for. 

“Even journalists of colour sometimes will produce coverage that differentiates and treats white and racialized subjects differently,” said Erin Tolley, political science professor at University of Toronto, in a phone interview. “Journalists are a product of the institutions that see whiteness as a norm. It’s not a problem of individual journalists.” 

Prof. Tolley spent four years surveying the mainstream media’s coverage of race in politics with data from the 2008 federal election, including how its depiction of non-incumbent, visible-minority candidates’ viability compared to non-incumbent, white candidates. 

“White, straight men are still seen as people who deserve to be in institutions of power, who naturally fit into those roles. … [Journalists] come at stories about racialized subjects with a different standard,” she said. “They present the white, non-incumbent candidates as more politically viable, more qualified to win, than racialized non-incumbents.” 

These unconscious biases towards visible-minority candidates tend to disappear from coverage, she said, when they occupy political office. 

Andrew Griffith, former director general at Citizenship and Immigration Canada during the Harper era, echoed Prof. Tolley’s assertion that improving diversity within one’s ranks doesn’t necessarily translate into a diversity of thought, particularly when the culture of the institution in question might promote conformity. “You had management teams that had a degree of diversity, but the corporate culture is about conforming. Did those diverse people bring a diverse perspective? You didn’t necessarily see that,” Mr. Griffith said of his own experience in government. 

Since retiring from public service, Mr. Griffith has now developed a tool with Mirems—a company that monitors and translates coverage from ethnic media sources—aimed at providing context about how issues are being covered in diaspora communities. The online tool is at Diversityvotes.ca. For journalists, he said, it can serve as a resource to deepen their understanding of the complexity of ethnic communities and to demystify perceptions that there’s a monolithic ethnic vote. “There’s a diversity with the diversity, and simply labelling or assuming people within a community are representative of an entire community is dangerous,” Mr. Griffith said. 

When confronted with their biases, Prof. Tolley said, journalists she interviewed—who spoke on the condition of confidentiality—tried to explain away differences in their framing of a candidate’s electability. For example, she observed that non-white candidates were more seen as long-shot candidates compared to their white counterparts. They insisted that any differences stemmed from a candidate’s level of experience, not stereotypes, even as she pointed out that those factors had been controlled for in the research. (The findings were published in her book, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics.)

The Canadian Press style guide’s—the definitive handbook that many reporters have copies of handy—section on race illustrates how journalists are instructed to think about the subject of racial stereotypes, Prof. Tolley said. In both the previous and latest editions of the guide, one measure for determining whether it’s “pertinent” to mention a person’s race is if one is reporting on an “accomplishment unusual in a particular race.” Thinking of issues of race in those terms, she said, shows “some outdated thinking about race and racial characteristics. In defending CP’s standards, the guide’s editor, James McCarten, told her in an interview for the book that the word “unusual” may not be the right word, but he stood by the guideline, saying, “journalism oftentimes is all about firsts” and “historically relevant” events. 

Efforts to deepen coverage of race, politics 

Ryan McMahon, the host of Canadaland’s Thunder Bay podcast series, said that his Anishinaabe identity, coupled with the privilege of not immediately being seen as Indigenous because of his skin colour, informs his approach to reporting on issues of race. 

In setting out to tell the story of why Thunder Bay has the highest hate-crime rates in Canada and why there’s deep distrust in the city’s institutions, Mr. McMahon said, the “one thing” the podcast got right was getting someone like him to report on the city. Having firsthand exposure to the subtle ways that racism manifests itself, he said, helps in identifying and effectively naming racism. In his hometown of Fort Frances, Ont., for example, it was “rare” to see a “brown face” behind the cash register. 

“The way I experience racism is very different than someone who is visibly native. I can walk down the street and not be identified as Indigenous, so my experience is very different,” Mr. McMahon said. “[Racism in Canada] is often quiet, but aggressive, unspoken. … The kind of racism we’re talking about isn’t necessarily a Nazi skinhead, KKK apologist. It can often be an unconscious ignorance, with deeply held misperceptions. People hold on really tightly to stereotypes.” 

The groundwork laid by journalists such as Mr. McMahon and Toronto Star’s Tanya Talaga in chronicling the systemic racism in Thunder Bay that underpins its public institutions—and the national conversation that followed—helped open up the space for The Globe and Mail to establish a temporary presence in the northwestern Ontario city earlier this year. The paper had also done extensive coverage of Adam Capay, the Lac Seul First Nation man who spent about four years in solitary confinement. 

David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief, explained in a staff memo that temporarily setting up shop in Thunder Bay, in an election year, presents this country a “chance to look inward and to encourage improvement in areas where we all know improvement needs to be made.”

Having spent more than a decade reporting on Indigenous issues, veteran Hill reporter Gloria Galloway was among the first reporters assigned to live for a couple of months in Thunder Bay, as part of the paper’s effort to deepen its coverage of the systemic racism in the city. The Globe does not have an Indigenous reporter on its staff, so it had a “limited pool” to choose from for the first stint, Ms. Galloway said. 

That The Globe, the country’s national newspaper, still doesn’t have an Indigenous columnist or staff reporter is a reflection of how the “markers” for improving diversity don’t appear to have moved much in Canadian media, said Mr. McMahon, who added that there are a bunch of journalists who are closer to the story. He said he’s been disappointed by The Globe’s coverage of Thunder Bay, pointing to the first piece released that gave an extensive overview, in interactive form, of the issue, with interviews from a cast of characters in the city. “So far, we’ve seen a Thunder Bay 101 piece. I understand why they had to do that, but it was a surface-level piece, a collection of stories that other journalists have already told,” Mr. McMahon said.

Ms. Galloway acknowledged that there’s a “huge learning curve” that comes with reporting on Indigenous issues, as a white woman. But, over time, through her reporting, she said, she’s developed a “sensitivity” to covering issues of race and has developed friendships and earned the respect of Indigenous peoples: “Every year, I’ve learned how much more I don’t know.”

Ms. Galloway said The Globe’s decision to dedicate resources to cover Thunder Bay was not an “insignificant financial commitment” for the paper, particularly in an election year. “I was pulled out of the Ottawa bureau for months. Losing a body in Ottawa for us is very difficult,” she said.

But there was an acknowledgment that shining a light on the situation could help elevate the issue to become part of the election discussion. “We’re not activist journalists, but certainly, there’s a sense in The Globe culture that shining a light on things that are wrong and having corrective action is [important],” Ms. Galloway said. 

Though Ms. Galloway is retiring next week, having decided to take a voluntary buyout, she said, the paper is committed to having a presence in Thunder Bay through the summer and fall. 

Source: Journalists inherit ‘institutional blindspots’ that cloud coverage of race in politics, says media expert

Tolley: Racialized and women politicians still get different news treatment

I am a great fan of Erin Tolley’s work. Some good words of advice to journalists covering politics and other spheres:

In the days after Jody Wilson-Raybould’s resignation from federal cabinet, reportssuggested she was difficult, not a team player, and even “mean.” Supportersdenounced this framing and pointed to its gendered and racialized undertones, a criticism with which the prime minister eventually agreed. Even so, media coverage came complete with editorial cartoons depicting Wilson-Raybould bound, gagged and beaten. Although the cartoons were largely condemned, some commentators derided the critics as overly sensitive, while of one of the cartoonists blamed faux-outrage and virtue-signalling.

As the days wore on, a caucus colleague suggested that Wilson-Raybould couldn’t handle the pressure of her cabinet position. Others argued that the evident cabinet discord is a predictable outcome of the government’s focus on “identity politics,” with one columnistsaying the prime minister had “been hoisted by his own petard.”

The media and political institutions have both edged toward more inclusivity, but women and racialized minorities remain, as former journalist Vivian Smith has put it, “outsiders still.” This outsider status partly reflects basic demographics: Parliament, newsroomsand the parliamentary press gallery are still mostly made up of white men. But it is also indicative of the ways that race and gender structure politics.

I have researched news coverage and found systemic differences in the ways white and racialized politicians are covered by journalists. Similar patterns exist in media coverage of women in politics. As I point out in my 2016 book, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics, these patterns are longstanding, so as the 2019 federal election campaign kicks into high gear, we are likely to see more of the same.

Racialized candidates’ coverage is as plentiful but more negative than that of white candidates. Their coverage focuses less on politically salient issues and is more likely to mention aspects of the candidate’s background like their race, immigration status or religion than is the case for white candidates. Racialized candidates are less likely to be quoted and more likely to be featured in stories that are buried on the inside pages of print editions. These patterns give racialized candidates less visibility and credibility.

Race influences how journalists decide to frame and portray their subjects. This type of coverage cues voters to apply racial considerations to their evaluations of politicians. It is grounded in assumptions about the meaning, importance and consequences of race. One aspect of this process is to assume that race is only relevant to subjects with minority racial backgrounds. Because of this, stories will often advance racial explanations in the coverage of racialized subjects but not in those about white subjects.

So, for example, when the news media do shine a light on racialized politicians, that coverage often frames them as a product of their demography. After the US midterm elections in 2018, which saw a record number of women candidates and several “historic firsts,” much of the coverage focused on the candidates who “broke race and gender barriers” and would be heading to Congress. There’s nothing wrong with covering these trailblazers, but the focus on their socio-demographic backgrounds conceals the other qualifications that they bring with them, including their professional credentials, community organizing and political acumen. The focus on socio-demographics has the effect of suggesting electoral success was a function of these candidates’ race or gender and that the backgrounds of white or male politicians did not factor into their victories.

Racialized women break the political mould in two ways: once on account of their gender and again on account of their race. Their media coverage bears the marker of their intersecting identities.

In my work, I have documented the portrayal of racialized women serving as members of Parliament in Canadian print news coverage since 1993. In addition to highlighting the novelty of racialized women politicians, there is a tendency to exoticize them.

In a 2008 Toronto Star news story, then-Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot was described as having a “captivating smoky voice.” In a 2009 column in the Globe and Mail, Ruby Dhalla was referred to as “a young drop-dead gorgeous, Indo-Canadian woman,” while a list of “10 things you should know about Ruby Dhalla” that appeared in the same paper said the Liberal MP is “like something out of a Bollywood movie.”

Some argue that media framing is simply a reflection of a candidate’s self-presentation. For example, in speeches and interviews, Olivia Chow, a longtime Toronto city councilor, MP and one-time mayoral candidate often referenced her background as an immigrant and woman of colour. Her background helps to explain her political activism, but Chow herself suggests it is also a response to the racism and sexism she endured on the campaign trail. Her treatment included an editorial cartoon that depicted her with exaggerated slanted eyes, dressed as a Maoist communist, and riding on her late husband’s coattails. The race and gender of white male politicians is rarely mentioned: they are portrayed as the neutral standard. Chow tried to counteract this tendency by framing her own narrative rather than leaving it up to the media.

The ways in which the media cover political candidates partly comes down to what news outlets think will interest their viewers and readers. Journalists consider timeliness, relevance and novelty when deciding what stories to cover, what angle to adopt and who to quote.

The Canadian Press Stylebook, a reference for print journalists, provides some guidelines. In its section on race and ethnicity, journalists are counseled to “identify a person by race, colour, national origin or immigration status only when it is truly pertinent.” However, it goes on to say that “race is pertinent in reporting an accomplishment unusual in a particular race: for example, if a Canadian of Chinese origin is named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.”

The standard of a racially unusual accomplishment is not echoed in the section on sexism, which instead instructs journalists to “Treat the sexes equally and without stereotyping. . . . The test always is: Would this information be used if the subject were a man?” By contrast, there is no mention of this kind of reverse test in the section on race and ethnicity. There, journalists are not counseled to ask, “Would this information be used if the subject were white?” In other words, when determining what is relevant, the standard that journalists are advised to apply is different for race than it is for gender.

Although those in the media and those in politics might each be loath to admit it, these institutions share a common lineage, resting on foundations that are both racialized and gendered. In the political realm, for example, racist restrictions barred some Canadians from voting, sometimes until well into the 20th century. In other words, politicians and the news media are navigating institutions marked by racialized assumptions, not to mention prejudice, patriarchy and classism.

In this context, racialized women candidates stand out, and their atypicality provides journalists with what seems like a novel hook for a story.

The way for journalists to improve the fairness of their coverage is not to ignore race and gender altogether, but instead to use the same standard when deciding on the hook for stories, the way they will be framed, and which details they will focus on when they are covering white men and racialized women. Race and gender are as much factors in the political trajectories of successful white men as they are in the stories of racialized women who have triumphed. News coverage should reflect this.

Source: Racialized and women politicians still get different news treatment

Terry Glavin: There are more crucial issues than the colour of Vancouver’s council

I agree more with Tolley (see Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk) than Glavin here (perhaps not surprisingly). The thought experiment I often use is how would I feel if I could not see myself reflected in political leadership and institutions? Would I be comfortable or not? Could I completely divorce feelings about my identity from the more intellectual choices in public policy? And could the abysmally low turn-out be tied to lack of representation or not?

And the other question to ask, where Terry has a point, would more diverse municipal councils address more or less effectively the issues facing the municipalities? In general, more diverse voices ensure better consideration of different perspectives, but not automatically so:

You might think it would be bad enough to show up again this year near the top of Demographia’s listings of cities with the least affordable housing markets in the world, and a rental vacancy rate of less than one per cent, and to have been reduced to ground zero of Canada’s fentanyl crisis, with a worldwide reputation as the epicentre of a global money-laundering system run by organized crime networks in China.

You might also think it is a bit disturbing that Vancouverites are apparently so dispirited by all this, and perhaps even convinced beyond doubt that there is nothing that can be done about any of it, that voter turnout in Vancouver’s recent civic election was about 40 per cent.

On the bright side, it’s a good thing that mayor Gregor “Happy Planet” Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team, after having presided over Vancouver’s transformation from Lotusland’s Metropolis to a seedy gangland paradise of drug-money laundering and shady real estate swindles, is now in history’s dustbin. On the downside, Robertson’s successor, Kennedy Stewart, won the race for the mayor’s office backed by only about 12 per cent of the city’s eligible voters.

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart celebrates with his wife, Dr. Jeanette Ashe, after addressing supporters in Vancouver on Oct. 21, 2018.

Whatever might be said about all that, the post-election thing to get worked up about, judging by reports in the Toronto Star, the local CBC news, various city webzines and the Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite, is the noticeably pale complexion of the new city council members, save one. Pete Fry. His Trinidad-born mother is the Vancouver Liberal fixture Hedy Fry, the long-serving MP for Vancouver-Centre.

To be fair, the statistical dearth of successful non-white candidates is something worth noticing, and even worrying about. Perhaps not so fervently as Globe and Mail Vancouver reporter Sunny Dhillon did, mind you. Owing to his bureau chief’s decision that the historic surfeit of women on Vancouver’s new city council was perhaps more newsworthy than the colour factor, Dhillon quit this week, quite publicly. Eight of the Vancouver’s 10 council members, as of the Oct. 20 elections, are women. This is, after all, quite a big deal.

The whiteness of recently elected municipal councils is being noticed right across Canada at the moment, though, and so it was helpful that the Institute for Research on Public Policy published a brief paper in its Policy Options journal this week, under the headline: “Elections in some of Canada’s most diverse cities still produced extremely homogenous councils. This threatens the legitimacy of their decisions.”

But just hold on a minute. If voters engage in a civic election, and the ethnic or racial diversity of the winners, in the aggregate, does not end up replicating the ethnic or racial diversity of the people who voted them into office, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to say the result “threatens the legitimacy of their decisions”?

Not a stretch at all, according to the article’s author, Erin Tolley. An assistant professor at the University of Toronto and “co-investigator” with the Canadian Municipal Election Study, a project of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Tolley writes: “All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background.”

Maybe so. But “all things being equal” is a rather basket-sized caveat, and in any case, the examples she cites — recent elections in Vancouver, Mississauga, Ont., and Toronto — could be held up as evidence against her claim just as easily as Tolley cites them as evidence in favour of it. Voters in Vancouver, Mississauga and Toronto do not appear to have followed the pattern of ethnic gravitational pull at all.

British Columbia NDP MLA Leonard Krog is recorded as a reporter interviews him while awaiting the municipal election results for Nanaimo, B.C., on Oct. 20, 2018. Krog was elected mayor.

In Mississauga, 57 per cent of the voters identify as members of a “visible minority” but only one “racialized” councillor got elected. In a city where slightly more than half the people identify as members of “visible minority” groups, Toronto’s 25-member city council can boast only four people of colour. Statistics Canada’s recent data shows the same sort of ratio for Vancouver — slightly more than half of Vancouverites identify as members of “visible minority” groups.

So what’s with all the white people on city councils?

It’s a question worth asking, and although the answers are likely to differ from city to city, Tolley’s remedial prescription, an interim measure consisting of diversity and inclusion advisory committees to provide councils with advice about ethno-cultural relations and diversity, is perfectly reasonable, so far as it goes. An approach like that might also give “racialized” participants some public exposure, access to networks and degrees of civic exposure “that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics,” Tolley writes.

But isn’t this just a bureaucratic solution in search of a problem? Does the ubiquity of white people in civic politics really mean “many voices are excluded from the decision-making process,” and that this state of affairs “puts municipalities at risk”?

In Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, backed by Metro Vancouver’s labour unions, won the race for the mayor’s office only by squeaking past the Non-Partisan Association’s Ken Sim, who happens to be Chinese-Canadian. The result was 49,812 votes to Sim’s 48,828. Sim can hardly complain that he wasn’t taken seriously, so I asked three unsuccessful Vancouver civic candidates, people of colour, all with the outside-chance upstart ProVancouver slate, what they thought about all the fuss about whiteness.

Women cross the street at the intersection of East Pender Street and Gore Avenue in Vancouver on Dec. 5, 2016.

ProVancouver council candidate Rohana Rezel, born in Sri Lanka, had to put up with some nasty and widely publicized online racist harassment. “People from all ethnic communities came and rallied around me every time somebody tried to attack me. There was nothing that made me less privileged than other candidates, based on my ethnic background,” he said. “I just don’t buy the argument that white people just vote for white candidates.”

Rezel’s running mate, Raza Mirza, a Punjabi Muslim, said: “I just don’t understand this obsession with the idea that overall, council must look like the overall general population.” ProVancouver mayoral candidate David Chen, whose background is Taiwanese: “You have to be careful with that, or you’re going to risk forcing bad people into the system.”

All three said there are far bigger “process” issues that require attention. Like the abysmally low voter turnout. And Vancouver’s antiquated at-large voting system.

Source: Terry Glavin: There are more crucial issues than the colour of Vancouver’s council

Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Good and thoughtful analysis by former colleague Erin Tolley. One of the paradoxes is that federal and provincial visible minority representation is reasonably good, with the major gap being at the municipal level. Her work in understanding why this is so is important:

Local politics are often viewed as an entry point into political life. Municipal candidacy requires less money, gatekeeping by traditional political parties is relatively absent, and successful candidates who become councillors can fulfill their terms at home without having to uproot their families to the provincial or federal capital. As a result, we might expect to see city councils that are more diverse. However, that expectation is simply not borne out, as we saw recently in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, where only a handful of racialized councillors won seats in the October 22 municipal elections.

But less has been said in the media about Mississauga, the country’s sixth-largest city and one where the lack of racialized representation on the municipal council is perhaps especially acute. In Mississauga, 57 percent of the residents identify as members of a “visible minority” (more than in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa), and there is now just one racialized councillor, Dipika Damerla. Prior to that, Mississauga’s council was entirely White.

In fact, most municipalities in Canada are governed by councils that are predominantly White and mostly male. Women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals are numerically underrepresented on most city councils. The lack of diversity means many voices are excluded from the decision-making process. This puts municipalities at risk. Large swaths of the population may feel underrepresented or ignored, and council may miss out on important views.

Damerla, a former provincial politician, ran in a Mississauga ward that was vacated after the retirement of a 30-year council veteran. The presence of long-time incumbents and the significant advantage they wield is one reason the demographic profile of municipal councils has remained so stagnant. Some have talked about the need for sitting councillors to “make way” for more diverse voices. In London, Ontario, Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman to serve on that city’s council, was elected. Late in the campaign, her candidacy was endorsedby Rod Morley, who dropped out of the race to put his support behind the only woman candidate in the ward. Morley has run for provincial and municipal office before but, in explaining his decision to leave the race, he told the London Free Press, “The power (balance) is wrong right now. I want to try to do something about that.”

In Mississauga, just two sitting councillors opted not to run for re-election this time around. The incumbents who did run were all re-elected, some garnering more than 90 percent of the vote. These incumbents block the road to newcomers. Limiting the number of terms that mayors and councillors could serve might help, but term limits are virtually unheard of in Canadian politics, and they remain a controversial measure.

It’s not that there is a shortage of racialized candidates in Mississauga. Of the 78 candidates who ran for council in this election cycle, 44 were racialized Canadians. That’s 56 percent of all contenders. Moreover, every ward race included two or more racialized candidates, as did the race for mayor. In the most tightly contested ward, seven of the 11 candidates were racialized, but the incumbent, Ron Starr, was ultimately victorious.

The issue is not that racialized candidates aren’t running in Mississauga. The issue is that voters aren’t choosing them.

Low voter turnout is an important factor. In Mississauga, voter turnout was just 27 percent, and there is evidence that racialized Canadians are less likely to vote than White Canadians. When we look at variations in voter turnout, socio-economic explanations are influential, but we also need to think about role model effects. If racialized minorities are looking at the political landscape, and they do not see their concerns being reflected, they are less likely to engage in the process. It is thus a vicious cycle. Strategies to increase voter turnout among racialized minorities must be a part of any effort to address the persistent Whiteness of municipal politics.

Finally, there is the question of voter preference. All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. This is the same for White voters and for racialized voters, and it is particularly apparent in municipal contests, where voters’ electoral decision-making occurs in what is often called a “low-information” context.

In cities like Mississauga, where municipal candidates run without party labels and there is limited local media coverage, voters have to rely on other cues to sift through their ballot box options. Name recognition is one such cue. But voters also use candidates’ race, gender and other sociodemographic characteristics as a shortcut to infer information about politicians’ issue positions, policy preferences and suitability for office. There is a tendency for voters to believe that candidates who are most similar to themselves will be best able to represent them. Decision-making shortcuts play a role in all electoral campaigns, but they matter especially in local politics because of the absence of other information.

In a low-information context where demographic cues play a role, turnout is low, White voters are more numerous and the field is dominated by White incumbents, the outcome — mostly White councils — is entirely predictable.

But in Mississauga, there is even more to the story.  The second-place finisher in the mayoral race is a candidate who was charged with a hate crime in a case still before the courts on election day. That candidate received more than 16,000 votes and the support of 13.5 percent of Mississauga electors. Clearly, there is a segment of the city’s population for whom racial equality is not top-of-mind. The vote is a means of registering resistance. It gives voters a tool to fill the seats of decision-making tables with representatives for whom equity and inclusion are guiding principles. When prospective voters opt out (or are left out), the risk is that those spaces will be ceded to other voices.

In the absence of more diverse representation, what can elected bodies do to ensure marginalized voices are included? One thing Mississauga has done is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to provide advice to council on “ethno-cultural relations and diversity matters.” The committee includes the mayor and two councillors as well as 20 community representatives. The committee is advisory in nature, so it is not a replacement for elected representation. However, it could give members exposure, networks and experience that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics.

Diversity on council isn’t a matter of political correctness. It goes to the heart of representative democracy, which is premised on elected bodies reflecting the citizens they serve. Elected bodies are unlikely to ever be a perfect microcosm of society, but the persistent homogeneity of municipal councils is of concern. Councillors invariably draw on their own experiences and beliefs when they exercise their duties, and plenty of evidenceshows that decision-making tables are more effective when they include a broader range of perspectives. The exclusion of diverse voices from municipal councils may result in flawed policies, and that threatens the effectiveness and very legitimacy of the decisions that are taken.

Source: Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men

Good study by Erin Tolley (disclosure: know Erin from our time together at CIC/IRCC and we remain in contact):

For women, the toughest hurdle is at the nomination level, the first checkpoint into the political realm.

Racialized minorities come up against barriers further along, beginning at the candidate selection stage.

That’s according to Erin Tolley, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto.

Tolley is among the first to map the race and gender of more than 800 people vying for a political party’s nomination ahead of the 2015 vote in 136 of the country’s most diverse ridings, where racialized minorities make up at least 15 per cent of the population, half of which are in Ontario. (Her tally uses Statistics Canada’s definition of “visible minority” and therefore does not include Indigenous nomination contestants or candidates.)

Wannabe politicians must first successfully compete for their choice party’s nomination in order to become the candidate in an election.

Though Tolley’s project is still in the works, early findings suggest political parties aren’t doing enough to diversify the pool of candidates.

“The dynamics for women and racialized minorities are different,” she said. “That’s important for parties to know because they therefore need to have different strategies if they want to attract and want to run women or racialized minority candidates.”

Women make up 52 per cent of the population, but only accounted for 33 per cent of nomination contestants across those 136 ridings. The proportion of female election candidates ticked up slightly, to 36 per cent, and 31 per cent of elected MPs in those districts were women.

That suggests women are less likely to throw their hat in the ring, but once they do, they fare well.

“Maybe women don’t want to run, they don’t want to be called ‘Barbies,’ for example,” Tolley said, citing veteran MP Gerry Ritz’s now-deleted and apologized-for recent tweet that referred to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “climate Barbie.”

Tolley put the onus on political parties.

“Political parties don’t do sufficient work to identify women candidates and encourage them to run,” she said. “Frankly, not enough fingers are pointed at political parties. We don’t need to change the electoral system to get women into politics. All parties need to do is nominate more women. It’s actually pretty simple.”

Racialized minorities don’t experience the same obstacle.

According to the data, minorities declare their candidacy in proportions that match their presence in the population. However, by the time Canadians go to the polls the share of MPs of colour is far below that.

“They want to be nomination contestants, but then the party is less likely to select them, and voters are even less likely to select them,” Tolley said.

Across the 136 ridings, racialized minorities comprised 38 per cent of the population and 37 per cent of nomination contestants. That dwindled to 33 per cent of election candidates, and to 29 per cent of MPs — an eight-point gap between the number of hopeful nominees and those who won a seat on the Hill.

A contributing factor is one Tolley has previously explored — that minority candidates tend to compete against each other in battleground districts.

That’s because racialized minorities are more likely to run, and win, in more diverse ridings, Tolley said. For instance, three candidates of colour may vie for their party’s nomination in an ethnically-rich district, and split the ballot.

“So, you have this big pool of people who are interested, but they’re competing against each other, essentially cancelling each other out — and that’s happening at each level,” she explained.

As for white men, their political possibilities widen.

Thirty-nine per cent of nomination contestants in those diverse ridings were white men, and they comprised 40 per cent of candidates on the ticket. Nearly half, 48.5 per cent, of those who won a seat were white males.

Source: Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men | Toronto Star

Threats to academic freedom aren’t just a white-guy problem

One of the more thoughtful commentaries on the Potter controversy from a different angle by Amanda Bittner, Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Erin Tolley (disclosure: Erin is a former colleague):

Look at the demographics of any large organization, and you’ll find that most positions of power are occupied by white men. That’s true, too, of academia. In Canadian universities, there are almost no Indigenous administrators or administrators of colour; tenured positions, particularly at the highest levels, belong disproportionately to white men. Women, people of colour, and Indigenous peoples typically don’t have the opportunity to lose their prestigious positions amid controversy because they don’t even get those positions to begin with.

Adjunct and contract positions—the most precarious academic work of all—are often carried out by women, Indigenous scholars, and scholars of colour.As one U.S. study notes, just as under-represented groups began to gain a toehold in the professoriate, the academic job market contracted. Permanent positions have been replaced by those with almost no job protection, as well as long hours and little institutional support. Even if scholars in these roles had time to pen op-eds on controversial topics, seeing a person of privilege be so easily cut loose would almost certainly only heighten the instinct for women, Indigenous scholars and scholars of colour to stay quiet. And yet these are the voices we need.

We know we also write from a position of privilege: we are white women (two with tenure, one without) who work in academic institutions and have the luxury to follow these debates on social media. And yet, whenever we comment publicly on an issue, we look over our shoulders and wonder about the potential effect that public engagement might have on our careers. We debated the wisdom of even commenting on this case, concerned as we are about the blowback it might elicit, but we are intervening because we believe that the burden of exposing problematic institutional practices shouldn’t fall only on the shoulders of the most marginalized.

This isn’t just a white-guy problem. The incident sends a signal to our colleagues who have important things to say, who don’t have a platform of privilege from which to say it, and who don’t have a safety net to fall back on if things go south—or a coterie of well-connected commenters who mount a forceful defence. When voices are silenced by universities, there is a real risk to those who dare make controversial observations based in rigorous empirical research, or conclusions that point to systemic discrimination, injustice, and current and past wrongs. These are things that might “bother” or “offend” the public, and which have the potential to place even greater pressure on institutions.

Indeed, McGill’s principal, Suzanne Fortier, suggests that the Institute’s role is not “to provoke, but to promote good discussion.” This is a prescription for tepid public discourse. We have brilliant colleagues whose provocative voices need to be made louder, not silenced. And if universities can’t stand up to this pressure and defend their researchers on the “easy” cases—like ones involving a privileged white man—they most certainly won’t have the courage to do so when confronted with the “difficult” ones.

Source: Threats to academic freedom aren’t just a white-guy problem – Macleans.ca

Visible Minority and Indigenous Members of Parliament: Tolley

Really good and timely e-book from Samara and UBC Press (Canadian Election Analysis: Communication, strategy, and democracy, free download).

Wide range of articles, my particular interest was in Erin Tolley’s on visible minorities and indigenous members (we have shared our respective data sets to ensure consistency):

42nd Parliament will include 47 visible minority Members of Parliament and 10 Indigenous MPs, record highs for both groups. The Liberals elected the most MPs of colour—83% of visible minority and Indigenous MPs will sit in the government caucus—followed by the Conservatives and the New Democrats.

The diversity of the 42nd Parliament dramatically outpaces the high-water mark reached in the previous Parliament when 28 visible minority and seven Indigenous candidates were elected. Following the 2011 election, MPs of colour made up 11% of the House of Commons, compared to 17% following the 2015 election, an increase of 54%.

…When political parties make an effort to recruit and nominate diverse candidates and do so in ridings where the party is competitive, those candidates can—and do—win. We should celebrate the inclusion of diverse faces in the House of Commons, but remain conscious of the ways in which their pathways to politics can be obstructed. Although it is beyond the scope of this analysis, we should also examine the positions that MPs of colour occupy on committees, within caucus, and in Cabinet. Presence is important, but influence matters most. Above all, in spite of the representational gains that have been made, they are in some cases small, meaning we still have some way to go to achieve a truly representative democracy.

For my analysis of the Cabinet, see The New Cabinet: Diversity, inclusion and achieving parity.

Political Communication in Canada – UBC Press

Canada federal election candidates include more visible minorities in 2015 than in the past four votes | National Post

More on visible minority candidates, with good commentary by Erin Tolley, Chris Cochrane and Priya Ramanujan:

Notably, this is the first time that the proportion of visible minority candidates in Parliament reflects the per cent of visible minority candidates who ran for election. Usually, a far greater proportion runs than is actually elected, said Erin Tolley, an expert on visible minorities in Canadian politics at the University of Toronto.

“It’s great to benchmark how many arrive in Parliament, but also to think about the mechanism through which they got there,” added Tolley, explaining that the success of visible minority MPs may have had more to do with the Liberal wave than with conscious effort. In 2011, the NDP were hailed for bringing several young MPs into Parliament, but they had “won by accident, by surprise” because of an unexpected surge of support in ridings they hadn’t expected to win.

Thirty nine visible minority MPs, the bulk of those elected yesterday, belong to the Liberal party, which has long had the support of more visible minorities than the other major federal parties.

“A Liberal victory like we saw last night unsurprisingly is going to return a particularly high number of visible minority candidates to Parliament,” said Cochrane.

“As visible minorities become more entrenched, they’re here for many generations. They’ve been living in their neighbourhoods for decades. That’s all a recipe for increased engagement in federal politics,” he added.

Priya Ramanujam, production editor of New Canadian Media, a news website focused on immigrants, said she’s seen such change unfold in her own neighbourhood, which is part of the GTA’s Scarborough North riding.

Until 2011, the area, where more than 70 per cent of voters belong to visible minorities, was represented by a non-visible minority MP. This year all three major parties ran visible minority candidates. And it’s not just the parties who are trying to get more in tune with locals.

“I have definitely noticed an increase in people getting involved in politics, both young people and adults right up to seniors, and that’s across ethnicities,” said Ramanujam, who says that youth are far more engaged than when she was in high school in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But Tolley said what happens next will dictate how much influence visible minorities have in practice. “To me, a commitment to diversity and equality goes beyond just putting people in the House of Commons. It means giving them a voice of power,” she said.

Visible minorities held token positions under the previous government, she said. “There were visible minorities sitting in cabinet, but those visible minorities had cabinet portfolios that were extremely limited.”

“The visible minorities that tend to get access to power are not the full range of people of colour that we see in Canada,” added Tolley, warning that advancements for minorities in general can distract from the plight of marginalized groups, such as Black Canadians, very of few of which have been elected to parliament.

The Oct. 19 election saw the three major parties field more visible minority candidates than in the past four federal elections, according to a study by Andrew Griffith, former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The National Post used data from the study to tally the number of visible minority MPs.

In total, 143 of the 1014 candidates that ran for the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties belong to a visible minorities with 68 of them running in 33 ridings where more than half of residents belonged to visible minorities.

Source: Canada federal election candidates include more visible minorities in 2015 than in the past four votes | National Post

Immigrants are not a monolithic voting block

Ethnic_Voting_Cochrane_SlideGood panel organized by the Munk Centre:

If the Conservative Party is banking on the immigrant and ethnic minority vote to win them the election, as some believe they did in 2011, they might need to revisit that narrative.

“They do well with white immigrants, not visible minority immigrants. I think there is a disconnect with the narrative and reality,” says Chris Cochrane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Cochrane took part today in the University of Toronto’s Munk School panel, “Courting the Ethnic Vote: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 2015 Federal Election.” The panel of experts discussed a variety of topics facing ethnic minorities, from the racialization of candidates to the importance of diversity in politics.

Jeffrey Reitz, the president of the Harney Program in Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies at the Munk Centre, moderated the panel and opened it by discussing the traditional voting narrative of immigrants in Canada: for generations, immigrants voted for the Liberal Party of Canada, because “they were the party of open immigration,” or for the New Democratic Party, because they were the “party of the underdog.”

There was an apparent breakthrough for the Conservative Party in getting the ethnic vote when the former minister of citizenship and immigration, Jason Kenney, embarked on a major outreach effort during the last federal election, said Reitz.

“Old-stock Canadians with conservative values meet new-stock Canadians with conservative values, that was the story.”

“There is no question about the dominance of the narrative of Conservative inroads among immigrant communities,” said Cochrane, but his findings show different conclusions.

But immigrants who have moved to Canada from the Middle East showed an almost equal vote distribution amongst the parties. South Asians voted strongly for the Liberals, and African immigrants voted for the NDP. The Conservatives were favoured by Europeans, East Asians and Americans.

“A story of a massive special immigrant vote that abandoned the Liberal Party, and shifted to the Conservative Party, outside of Quebec doesn’t seem to be consistent with the data.”

Cochrane’s findings on ethnic minority and immigrant voting patterns came from the “exit surveys” conducted by the research company IPSOS. They surveyed over 100,000 Canadians in the past three federal elections — including over 12,000 immigrant voters.

“This is a unique data set that allows us to look at small communities and discuss it with high statistical confidence, he told iPolitics.”

“Outside of Quebec, the immigrant as a whole mirrors to a larger extent the vote of other Canadians, and is equally heterogeneous. There is a lot of variation in diversity in the immigrant community — just as there is in the non-immigrant community.”

Source: Immigrants are not a monolithic voting block (paywall)

Another good presentation was by Erin Tolley, looking at the news coverage of immigrants and minorities in Canadian politics, sharing the results of her forthcoming book, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics (see her earlier op-ed in the Globe Parties pigeonhole visible minority candidates)