Is unleashing Jason Kenney on Ontario a good idea for the Tories?

More commentary on Alberta Premier Kenney’s plans to campaign in the 905 and other immigrant and visible minority rich ridings:

A premier spending days campaigning in a different province for an election of a different order of government: in most cases, it would be political catnip for the opposition back in his province. Alberta in 2019, I cannot say enough, is not most cases. Premier Jason Kenney could gain popularity at home if he ditches Edmonton this fall to hold fundraisers in Markham, Brampton and Mississauga, in service of flipping the federal election away from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. A typical opposition argument would condemn the premier for wooing Ontarians while a litany of Alberta issues demand attention. But in the minds of many frustrated Albertans, ousting Trudeau is one of the province’s most pressing issues.

This clears Kenney to decamp to Toronto’s populous suburbs for a few brief stretches this fall to stump for Andrew Scheer and Conservative candidates, as the Globe and Mail reports he will. It’s a reprise of the campaign outreach Stephen Harper’s former minister did in immigrant communities in the 905 area and elsewhere in past federal elections. While Albertans will likely stomach their premier’s extra-curricular activities, it’s more of an open question what the net benefit of this would be to Scheer’s Conservatives, whose electoral fortunes could be determined in the roughly two dozen seats that ring Toronto. Will the positives outweigh the negatives?

There’s no clear successor in Scheer’s current caucus to Kenney, the longtime immigration minister and tireless ethnic outreach king who in one weekend would hopscotch from a Chinese banquet hall to a Sikh gurdwara to a Philippine picnic to a Coptic temple, collecting fistfuls of donations, volunteer signups and vote pledges along the way. Plainly, it’s not normal for the Conservatives to have a Jason Kenney, capable of politicking effectively in nearly every shard of Canada’s cultural mosaic and shake loose the Liberals’ traditional grip on new Canadians’ votes; it would likely take a team of outreach workers to accomplish what he did. Kenney has maintained and tended to his contact lists since shifting to Alberta, and retains at least some of his support base out there: members of Toronto’s Chinese community hosted a reception in his honour in March 2018, when Kenney came east to speak at the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership convention.

It took Kenney several years to hone his outreach methods and to persuade communities to abandon the Liberals in favour of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Now both of the leaders who wooed minorities in the 905, Harper and Kenney, are off the federal ballot, having alienated those communities in the last election with policies like the barbaric cultural practices” snitch line and bans on face-coverings at citizenship ceremonies. Scheer is an unknown commodity to many; a visiting Kenney would have to reassure voters that the new leader brings the sort of political chops and immigration system improvements they liked in 2008 and 2011, without the warts of 2015—and that Scheer is certainly not the kingpin of a motley band of racists and xenophobes that Trudeau’s Liberals contend they are. It’s no stretch to assume that if Kenney campaigns federally in Ontario, he’ll also hold fundraisers in Lower Mainland B.C. and the Montreal area—both parts of his old familiar ethnic campaign trail.

Kenney seems intent to make time-zone-hopping almost as regular an activity as premier as it was in his federal career, with his lecture and lobbying circuit in favour of Alberta oil and pipelines. On Friday, he was in Toronto to meet Mayor John Tory and speak to the C.D. Howe institute. The scoresheet, four weeks into Kenney’s premiership: two speeches in Hogtown, zero in his native Cowtown.

Will he be viewed now differently within communities he cultivated in years past? And perhaps more importantly, by voters who aren’t the target of his private fundraisers and events, and might be rankled by his fly-in work?

When he was a federal minister, it was much easier for Kenney to tell Ontarians and British Columbians that he was striving for the best results for all parts of Canada. Now, he’s premier of just one part, an Alberta-firster by design. He professes interest in bringing all Canadians the spin-off jobs and redistributed wealth from Alberta oil development, yet campaigned on a jarring proposal to rejig federal health and social transfers in a way that would substantially favour his province to the detriment of others.

Ontarians will reasonably be suspicious as to whether he has their best interests at heart. The extent to which climate change becomes a major issue in this election may influence how warmly the petro-province leader’s insertion into Ontario riding contests is received. If concerns about a warming planet and extreme weather are chief in voters’ minds, the amount of money and support Kenney raises in Brampton may be outweighed by the scorn his policies and carbon-tax opposition attracts in the rest of the province.

Some developments back in Alberta also make Kenney’s travels more of a dubious proposition. The RCMP continues to investigate alleged voter fraud perpetrated by Kenney’s 2017 campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership, and much of the scrutiny concerns Indo-Canadians in Calgary and Edmonton whose information may have been fraudulently used to obtain online voter identities. Should the investigation bear fruit—no charges have yet been laid—it would reveal the most cynical and craven version of ethnic politics in Canada, and a willingness by Kenney to embrace such dark moves. Why would a Sikh business group or a Polish Catholic Church welcome a politician who abuses his entrée into their community?

To be sure, Kenney and the federal Tories have left themselves an escape hatch: his camp says he won’t stump if it’s seen as a political liability, and the Conservatives are currently leading in the polls. But a party that can use help in a part of the country that tends to swing elections—and has no obvious candidate to provide it—Kenney’s walk down Memory Lane (that’s in Richmond Hill, right?) no doubt seems a gamble worth taking.

Source: Is unleashing Jason Kenney on Ontario a good idea for the Tories?

Australia: Foreign-born voters and their families helped elect Turnbull in 2016. Can they save ScoMo?

Interesting overview of the upcoming Australian election and ethnic votes. Some similarities to Canada but with greater polarization and more extreme views:

At the 2016 federal election, a small but significant vote cast by foreign-born Australians and their families helped elect the Liberal Party. The voters backed conservative minor parties in typically Labor-leaning electorates, and their preferences flowed to the Liberals.

Electoral pundits made little of this phenomenon at the time, and the media were not particularly interested. But in the wake of a similar voting pattern in the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017, the search is now on to find the elusive “ethnic vote”.

Who are these voters and where do they live?

The two largest collectives of non-English speaking groups are Chinese-Australians, and people from the Indian subcontinent including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. These “ethnic groups” are already multicultural, multilingual and politically diverse.

Pockets of Chinese-Australians concentrated in key swing seats in NSW and Victoria were mainly responsible for the surprise outcomes in 2016. That included Reid, Banks and Barton in NSW and Chisholm in Victoria. Three of the four went to the Liberals, but on demographic grounds and political trends at the time, all could have been delivered to Labor. (While Barton stayed Labor, the swing to the Liberals was significant.)

In 2019, we could see a similar pattern emerge in these seats again, as well as in Moreton in QLD, Hotham in Victoria, and Parramatta, Greenway and Bennelong in NSW.

Australia has over 300 ancestries, 100 religions and 300 languages, so invoking a category like “ethnic” does not lead in a particular direction – especially given the divisions and diversity within cultural groups and language communities.

And this population diversity has been shifting as newer groups have accelerated their presence, and older groups have passed on. The foreign-born population now have a growing number of Australian-born children, although many may not yet be able to vote.

How are the parties targeting them?

The main ethnic communities lobby group, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA), has produced a policy wish-list and is seeking responses from the parties.

Among the majors, only the Greens have a clearly articulated multicultural policy, having put a proposal for a Multiculturalism Act with subsequent implementation and rights machinery to the Senate over a year ago.

The ALP still sits on its hands on the legislative option, possibly fearing that supporting such a move might trigger negative reactions from the working class and more racist voters.

Their policy now includes a “body” named Multicultural Australia, with a string of commissioners across the country. It will probably come under Tony Burke as Minister, focusing on citizenship and access issues. In this, it is a variant on the 1990s Office of Multicultural Affairs. This was once part of the Hawke/Keating prime minister’s office but was abolished by John Howard as soon as he could.

Labor has committed more funds for community language schools and criticised delays in processing citizenship applications, as well as the high level of English required to pass the test. Former Senator Sam Dastyari has argued that opening up parental reunion is a major offer to a range of ethnic groups needing older family members to do caring work. This move, as one of this author’s informants, said, would really “win the Desi’s heart”, and probably many other ethnic groups as well. The idea has prompted a hostile response from the Coalition.

While Liberal leader Scott Morrison reiterates the old Turnbull mantra of Australia being the most successful multicultural country, the government’s lacklustre Multicultural Advisory Council no longer seems to have a web presence other than one which promotes integration and Australian values.

The Liberals propose a system of aged care “navigators” to help people with limited English survive the aged care system, while also injecting funds into start-up businesses run by migrants.

Conservative think-tank the Institute for Public Affairs retains as its second policy demand of any Liberal government that Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act be abolished. The Liberals took this into 2013 and 2016; Morrison has said it’s not on for 2019, though the right of the party is still committed.

What role will they play in the election?

Ethnic communities are not necessarily either cohesive or unanimous in their political viewpoints unless something particularly touches on their “ethnicity”.

The recent anti-Chinese sentiment reflected in media headlines about the alleged corruption of Australian political parties by wealthy Chinese residents may be doing that among Chinese communities. Many Australian Chinese think that Labor is much more sensitive to these issues than the Coalition, and Liberal Party Chinese figures have voiced these concerns in public gatherings.

Although they can be very interested and involved in politics, Chinese Australians have tended to hold back from active political engagement in the past. Indians, by contrast, bring some knowledge of English and, coming from a Westminster democratic system, tend to be more directly engaged – as party members for example. The Greens are particularly open to south Asian members; so, it seems, is the Christian Democratic Party (CDP).

While there are many conservative and religious parties across the country, only NSW has the CDP. It’s offering a “multicultural” array of candidates and directing preferences to the Liberals. The party was key in funnelling support from East Asian intensive electorates in 2016.

After unsuccessful discussions over a number of elections as to whether a socially conservative alliance might be formed between Muslims and Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Daoist and non-religious groups, something like the alliance appears to have been launched in Sydney. Reportedly “targeting Labor seats that had a high no vote in the same-sex marriage survey”, it could put some further some punch behind the Christian Democratic Party even though it’s not directly affiliated. The CDP is also targeting the Pacific communities in its campaign of support for Christian footballer Israel Folau.

Meanwhile, parties of the far right are competing to present their anti-multicultural agendas. In Lindsay, neo-Nazi Jim Saleam represents the Australia First Party, while across the country, right-leaning parties tussle for the xenophobic vote. That includes Rise Up Australia, Shooters Farmers and Fishers, Australian Conservatives, Australian National Conservatives, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and United Australia Party.

Although these parties may preference the Coalition, they may prove to be one force that drives ethnic communities towards the ALP.

Election day and beyond

Election day will provide the proof for many of the claims about ethnicity, voting, influence and ideology. It’s highly likely that the senators elected from the right will run a unity ticket against multiculturalism in the new Senate.

This year may well prove the last flash of a mainly White Australian election, with its defenders doubling down on the right, while the centre takes on a multi-coloured hue, and the left is ever more rainbow. A lot of the knowledge that we may glean from the election process will only be learned in its aftermath, picking through small details and trying to form a pattern of explanation.

It has taken the Australian public sphere the best part of three years to work out what happened with cultural diversity and its complexities in 2016. We may well have just as long to wait this time around.

Source: Foreign-born voters and their families helped elect Turnbull in 2016. Can they save ScoMo?

Can Tories repeat past success in wooing the ethnic vote?

Further to my earlier post Visible Minority Candidates in the 2015 Election: Making Progress, good range of comments by Myer Siemiatycki, Thierry Giasson, and Ratna Omidvar on whether or not the Conservatives can maintain their inroads (most recent polls suggest not).

We will see who is right Monday night:

Opinion is divided as to whether the Conservative Party will be able to repeat its success in drumming up support in the ethnic and newcomer communities in next week’s federal election.

In 2011, the strategy was to “broaden the support of the party and reach out to visible minority communities,” says Myer Siemiatycki, a professor of political science at Ryerson University. “We saw a very concerted and aggressive outreach by the Conservatives.”

That effort proved to be successful. According to an Ipsos exit poll, 42 per cent of immigrants to Canada voted Conservative. The party won 43 per cent of the vote of immigrants who had been in the country for more than a decade. In that same poll, only 37 per cent of people born in Canada voted for the Conservatives.

But this time around it may not work as well, Siemiatycki says. Issues like the niqab, terrorism and security and the Conservatives’ stands on what they have described as “barbaric cultural practices” as well as policies on Syrian refugees, family reunification and citizenship have irked many and perhaps driven away some ethnic or multicultural voters.

Because of that, Siemiatycki gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives a failing grade when it comes to wooing multicultural and ethnic Canadians this campaign. Charm won’t be enough in this election, he says. As for the Liberals and New Democrats, Siemiatycki ranks their performance as neck and neck, giving both parties a resounding A for their efforts.

While neither party does the kind of narrowcasting the Conservatives are famous for, they have gone out of their way to include a diverse slate of candidates as well as make campaign appearances in diverse ridings, he says.

More importantly, both parties have strongly spoken out against Tory policies, including family reunification; citizenship, the niqab and refugees, he adds. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair are trying to win over newcomers and minority communities by arguing that Tory policies are not in the best interest of the country, he says. “It took courage, I think, to stand for minority rights; to stand for inclusion based on diversity and pluralism, tolerance and the rule of law.”

However, Thierry Giasson, professor of political science at Laval University, believes the Tories have been very effective — perhaps just as effective — this time around. They know what they’re doing when it comes to wooing specific ethnic and newcomer communities, he says.

…Ratna Omidvar, founder of the Global Diversity Exchange, a think tank at Ryerson University, believes the Conservatives have made substantial inroads in certain ethnic communities by appealing to “mainstream values within (certain) immigrant communities that are in favour of law and order … I do think the Conservatives have the lead on this.”

Source: Can Tories repeat past success in wooing the ethnic vote? | Toronto Star