As Tories review election loss, weak support in immigrant communities a crucial issue

Article over-dramatises even if there is a need for a review.
Margins in many of these ridings were relatively small. Moreover, in Ontario, the provincial conservatives swept most of the same seats and, as the article notes, active outreach by Conservatives allowed them to make inroads.
But beyond the 41 ridings, there are an additional 93 ridings with between 20 and 50 percent visible minorities which should also be looked at:
The Conservative Party is only beginning to sift through the data from the 2021 election, but there is at least one warning light flashing red on the dashboard: the party has been nearly wiped out in Canadian ridings where visible minorities form the majority.

Of the 41 ridings in Canada where more than half the population is racialized, the Conservatives won just one in the 2021 election — Calgary Forest Lawn — despite winning 119 seats overall.

Source: As Tories review election loss, weak support in immigrant communities a crucial issue

Triadafilopoulos: Are Canadians really open to more migration in the future?

A useful warning against assuming getting back to normal:

How are we to make sense of Canadian immigration policymaking during the COVID-19 pandemic? On the one hand, the Trudeau government has pledged to increase both its already ambitious admissions target for 2020 and its annual immigration levels in the next three years. The government’s expansive immigration strategy has earned the praise of immigration boosters while generating little in the way of skepticism (let alone criticism) from opposition parties. For the most part, public opinion has also fallen into line. Yet, paradoxically, the Government of Canada’s open approach to migration of all kinds has been marked by unprecedented territorial closure.

The same contradiction is evident among Canadians: their ongoing support of official multiculturalism has also coincided with increases in racist discrimination. A frank appraisal of Canada’s immigration policy must acknowledge the juxtaposition of aspirational openness, on the one hand, and de facto closure and growing hostility, on the other. Doing so makes it clear that any hope of returning to business as usual after the pandemic may be misplaced.

Canada has earned a global reputation for administering an expansive immigration policy. Bucking the global trend toward greater restrictiveness in the years following the global economic crisis of 2008-09, annual admissions rose steadily under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right-of-centre governments from 2008 to 2015. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s centre-left Liberal Party governments have introduced even more ambitious targets. These significant increases in immigration levels have been supported by all of Canada’s major political parties. Canadian governments, regardless of their partisan orientation, have also stood firm in their support of Canada’s policy of official multiculturalism, even as leaders of other liberal democracies have cast multiculturalism as a failed and dangerous experiment. Recent efforts to strike a more restrictive stance on immigration, notably by the populist People’s Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election, have come to naught.

Any hope of returning to business as usual after the pandemic may be misplaced

Public support appears to have held, despite the challenges raised by the pandemic. The most recent iteration of the Environics Institute for Survey Research’s long-running “Focus Canada” survey (published in October) revealed that,

[S]trong and increasing majorities of Canadians express comfort with current immigration levels, see immigrants as good for the Canadian economy and not threats to other people’s jobs, and believe that immigration is essential to building the country’s population … By a five-to-one margin, the public believes immigration makes Canada a better country, not a worse one, and they are most likely to say this because it makes for a more diverse multicultural place to live.

In their commentary for this series, the Environics Institute’s Andrew Parkin and Keith Neuman note that this increase in support for immigration “may in part be a counter-intuitive response to the pandemic itself: rather than focusing inward, Canadians are expressing a greater sense of social solidarity in recognition that, in the face of the crisis, ‘we are all in this together’.”

As we move into the second wave of the pandemic, the fragility of this solidarity is clear. Spikes in infections have led to new lockdowns, which, in turn, have slowed the summer economic recovery. Although the national unemployment rate has come down from a high of over 13% in April 2020, it remains stuck at about 9%. Employment growth has stalled and long-term unemployment has increased. Canadians find themselves living through a period of profound economic dislocation, unlike any in recent memory.

Moves aimed at containing the pandemic have also transformed Canada’s approach to migration. Canadians live in a country that has effectively shut itself off from the world. Despite the announcement of ambitious immigration targets, actual admissions shrank by 64% in the second quarter of 2020. The admission of resettled refugees and protected persons declined by 83%. Trips by residents of countries other than the United States to Canada fell by almost 96% from September 2019 to September 2020.

The current status quo is one of extraordinary closure, marked by popular support for strict controls and increased racism

A majority of Canadians appear to support strict border controls. According to a Nanos Research poll, 81% of Canadians “believe the Canada-US border should stay closed for the foreseeable future.” A 29 October 2020 report by the Association for Canadian Studies noted that 52% of Canadians would prefer to maintain currently low levels of immigration over the next twelve months. Only 24% supported “gradually [increasing] immigration levels” over the same period. An August 2020 survey by researchers at McMaster University and Dynata Research arrived at similar results.

Canada’s embrace of territorial closure has coincided with a spike in xenophobia and racism. A July 2020 poll by IPSOS Global Public Affairs revealed that nearly 30% of Canadians reported that they had “personally been a victim of racism, up five points since [2019].” A survey by the Angus Reid Institute noted that 50% of 500 respondents of Chinese descent had been “called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak … [A] plurality (43%) further say they [had] been threatened or intimidated.” A Statistics Canada report drawing on responses submitted from “more than 43,000 Canadians … to a crowdsourcing data collection [research project] on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian’s perceptions of safety” found that

The proportion of visible minority participants (18%) who perceived an increase in the frequency of harassment or attacks based on race, ethnicity or skin colour was three times larger than the proportion among the rest of the population (6%) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This difference was most pronounced among Chinese (30%), Korean (27%), and Southeast Asian (19%) participants.

My fear is that aspirational openness may lead to misplaced confidence in a relatively painless return to business as usual once the pandemic has lifted. This is not to say that the reasoning underlying the decision to expand Canada’s immigration program in the coming years is not compelling. It is to draw our attention to the fact that the current status quo is one of extraordinary closure, marked by popular support for strict controls and increased racism. The pandemic has amplified tendencies that have long been present in Canadians’ opinions on immigration: support for mass immigration has depended on the strict policing of irregular flows; and favorable views on multiculturalism have always included demands that immigrants adopt “Canadian values.” This reality needs to be acknowledged and dealt with if Canada is to successfully resume its immigration program in a post-pandemic world.

Visible minorities form majority in 41 federal ridings, but experts say immigrants are politically diverse

Overview of some of the issues:
Abdikheir Ahmed vividly remembers casting his ballot for the first time in Winnipeg’s 2010 municipal election. Not only was he excited, he had an entourage.

“I brought my family. I brought my kids. I brought everyone,” Ahmed said. “It was the first time in my life that I voted.”

The 39-year-old Winnipeg resident arrived in Canada from Somalia as a refugee in 2003. It took several years before he could legally vote as a Canadian citizen, but he was eager to do so.

“I feel that I have a responsibility to decide the direction that this country goes in,” said Ahmed.

Now, he runs Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, an organization that helps immigrants and refugees get settled in that city. Visible minorities make up one-quarter of the population in Winnipeg, according to Statistics Canada, though not all are recent immigrants.

Volunteers with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg launch the ‘Got Citizenship? Go Vote!’ campaign in August 2018. (Submitted by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg)

It’s become conventional wisdom in Canadian politics that immigrant voters can have a powerful influence in elections.

According to Ahmed, immigrants — new or long-settled — are a potentially powerful block of voters.

“It actually makes sense to court the so-called immigrant vote because that is the determining factor, and it’s a growing population,” said Ahmed.

But as the battle begins for this year’s federal election, experts say no party has a monopoly on any particular ethnic group or religious minority.

Myth or reality?

Canada’s major parties have been competing for immigrant voters since the 1960s, according University of Toronto political science professor Phil Triadafilopoulos.

“The main sources of immigration were different then, but the dynamics were very similar. It’s an urban Canadian story,” said Triadafilopoulos.

In the 2019 federal election, ridings in Toronto and Vancouver are considered key battlegrounds that can make-or-break a party. Both have high Chinese and South Asian populations.

But they aren’t the only cities where politicians are courting ethnic voters.

Certain very racist policies, like the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and tip line … woke up communities to actually say, ‘We cannot tolerate this in our country.’– Abdikheir Ahmed, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg

Andrew Griffith, a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says data on immigration and ethno-cultural diversity from the 2016 census shows many Canadian communities now have a larger percentage of visible minority residents than in 2011.

Of 338 federal ridings in Parliament, 41 have populations where visible minorities form the majority, compared with 33 five years earlier.

“Parties, when they’re developing their electoral strategies, take that into account in terms of how they advocate policies and programs to attract them,” said Griffith.

What’s more difficult is pinning down whether immigrant voters have partisan preferences.

New Canadians could once be counted on to vote Liberal, ever since Pierre Trudeau opened the door to more immigration in the 1970s, but that unwavering endorsement became less pronounced over the past decade.

Griffith says recent polling data suggests some ethnic communities still lean toward certain parties. Sikh-Canadians, for example, have a “general tendency” to vote Liberal and NDP, while Conservatives enjoy more support among Chinese-Canadians.

But, Griffith cautions, “We should never make the assumption that all members of the community are identical and behave the same way, whether it be in the polling booth or in other aspects.”

Encouraging newcomers to vote

In Winnipeg, Ahmed says it shouldn’t even be assumed new immigrants will exercise their franchise. He’s working to mobilize visible minority and newcomers who have earned citizenship to vote in this year’s federal election.

“Many newcomers have never voted in their own countries or have engaged in electoral processes that are not transparent, so do not actually trust the process and don’t see the importance of voting in it,” said Ahmed.

To encourage refugees and immigrants to vote in last fall’s municipal election, Ahmed’s non-partisan group launched a electoral campaign with the slogan “Got Citizenship, Go Vote.”

Immigration Partnership Winnipeg developed posters and videos on how and where to vote that were translated into 12 different languages, and concentrated on ethno-cultural community organizations to get the message out.

Ahmed’s impression is that immigrants don’t vote in blocks, but he says ethnic communities will respond electorally if they feel targeted by an issue.

For example, when the federal Tories campaigned in 2015 on policies such as banning the niqab at citizenship ceremonies or setting up a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line, Ahmed says it spurred newcomers to vote against them.

“The messaging from the Conservative Party came across as anti-immigrant,” said Ahmed.

“Certain very racist policies like the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and tip line … woke up communities to actually say, ‘We cannot tolerate this in our country.'”

It’s a point echoed by Triadafilopoulos, who suggests large numbers of immigrant voters is one of the reasons Canada has not experienced the same kind of xenophobic populism sweeping Europe and the United States.

“The demographic and institutional facts [in Canada] just make it a losing proposition,” he said.

Source: Canadian politicians will court the ethnic vote, but will it benefit any one party?For years, the Liberals could count on votes from immigrant communities, but with visible minorities a majority in 41 federal ridings, experts say that newcomers are politically diverse — and offer no guarantees for any one party.Cross Country Checkup |3 hours ago|

Election Watch: Attacks on Multiculturalism May Haunt Tories – New Canadian Media

Good overview by Phil Triadafilopoulos, Stephen E. White, Inder S. Marwah on some of the implications and tests of the Conservative electoral strategy with ethnic voters:

Verbal and physical attacks on Muslim women, graffiti on Muslim candidates’ lawn signs and the growing sense of unease among Canadian Muslims speak to the costs of the Conservatives’ strategy.

And yet, the response of Canadians to these assaults on fellow citizens has been muted.

Polls suggest that Canadians across the country are, in fact, supportive of the Conservatives’ positions. What does this tell us about the state of Canadian democracy?

Canadians’ support for multiculturalism is limited.

First, it suggests that Canadians’ support for multiculturalism is limited. Intolerant or merely opportunistic politicians can count on a reservoir of such support in advancing their agendas if they play their cards right.

The Conservatives have done exactly this: the relatively diffuse spread of Muslim voters, along with a broad-ranging antipathy toward the niqab, made this a worthwhile gamble.

By making the niqab an issue the Conservatives have harmed the NDP’s chances in the province Quebec, making it much less likely that the New Democrats – the frontrunner at the start of this campaign – will emerge with the most seats on Oct. 19.

The Conservatives’ ability to hold onto ridings in both the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver Area will provide the ultimate test of its strategy.

Second, if such bans become legislated, the ongoing battle between elected governments and the courts will continue.

While Stephen Harper has framed the NDP and Liberal parties’ resistance to niqab bans as being “on the wrong side of the electorate”, they’re on the right side of constitutional laws intended to shield minorities from the potentially unconstitutional preferences of democratic majorities.

We need only recall the overwhelming public opposition to Sikh turbans in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 25 years ago to see how important the courts can be in preserving minority rights in the face of public pressure.

The coveted new Canadian vote

Finally, the election raises questions about the Conservative party’s longstanding efforts to replace the Liberal party as the “natural home” of new Canadian voters.  

The Conservative’s positions on the niqab currently enjoy support from a majority of Canadians, including new Canadian voters. But the extension of the culture wars into the final days of the campaign may be risky.

If the Conservatives’ strategy is successfully framed as an attack on Canadian multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it may come back to haunt the party.

The Conservatives’ ability to hold onto ridings in both the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver Area will provide the ultimate test of its strategy.

Source: Election Watch: Attacks on Multiculturalism May Haunt Tories – New Canadian Media

Election Watch: Debunking the “Ethnic Vote” Strategy – New Canadian Media

While generally correct, this piece by Stephen E. White, Inder S. Marwah, and Phil Triadafilopoulos understates the degree of targeting – and micro-targeting – between and within ethnic communities. The current government’s approach, taking a more explicit side in any number of diaspora politics, is but one illustration:

New Canadians are no less savvy than the rest of the Canadian electorate. While it’s true that recent immigrants don’t have many years of experience with Canadian politics and elections, research also suggests they learn rather quickly.

There’s no reason, then, to think that parties’ targeted appeals to ethnic minority communities are any more effective than the strategies used to win the support of other kinds of voters.

Where does this leave us?  We can be sure the “ethnic vote” will figure prominently in political parties’ 2015-election campaigning. While the success of their efforts can in no way be assumed, the parties will undoubtedly compete for the support of new Canadians.

There’s no evidence that ethnic outreach actually works – but the parties believe it might, and this conviction shapes both electoral strategies and policy making.

Canadian political parties’ ongoing and ever more systematic efforts to compete for the votes of new Canadians helps explain why anti-immigrant discourse is so rare in Canadian elections and why Canadian parties, regardless of their ideological stripe, support robust immigration levels and the maintenance of an official multiculturalism policy.

Put differently, Canadian “exceptionalism” in the area of immigration politics and policy may have less to do with our innate civic virtues than with the strategic calculations of our political operators.

Election Watch: Debunking the “Ethnic Vote” Strategy – New Canadian Media.

Election Watch: Beyond the “Ethnic Vote” – New Canadian Media – NCM

Start of an interesting series in New Canadian Media in the lead-up to the October election by political science profs Inder S. Marwah, Stephen E. White and Phil Triadafilopoulos:

  • What exactly is the “ethnic vote”?  How is it understood and/or defined by different parties, media and researchers? Is there such a thing as an ethnic vote, or are there many different (perhaps conflicting) ethnic votes? Do assumptions about the “ethnic vote” portray widely diverse communities as sharing in a single set of values or interests?
  • What are the key ridings to watch in the lead-up to the 2015 election? How will demographic factors affect local, regional and national voting patterns?
  • What are the issues of greatest concern to new Canadians and/or longstanding ethnic communities? How are the different parties addressing them?
  • Are religious practices being politicized for electoral purposes, as has been the case in many European states? How are new Canadians likely to respond to such efforts?

We will explore how immigration and new Canadian communities are helping to shape the country’s political landscape. Broadly speaking, Canada is an immigrant-receiving success story. In the last few decades, the country has opened itself to a high volume of immigration, provided immigrant populations with relatively easy access to naturalization and citizenship, and maintained its social cohesion, political stability and economic wellbeing along the way. While new Canadians undoubtedly face barriers in accessing social, political and economic opportunities, they fare better in these respects than do immigrant communities in many other countries. New Canadians are, then, poised to profoundly influence the 2015 federal election, and more broadly, Canada’s political life. We look forward to analyzing their influence in the months ahead.

Election Watch: Beyond the “Ethnic Vote” – New Canadian Media – NCM.

ICYMI: Immigration experts say Bill C-24 discriminatory and weakens citizenship

Star overview on the impact of the changes in C-24 Citizenship Act changes from the perspective of the major critics of C-24. Would have been better to include some of the supporters as well for balance (e.g., Collacott, Saperia, Siddiqui):

He [Alexander] seems to relish the idea of rewriting what it is to be Canadian and to hold citizenship. “If there was a time when new Canadians made the mistake that we only had a peacekeeping tradition or our rights and freedoms began with the Charter, then I’m glad our reforms are broadening their perspective.”

Neither he nor the Conservative Party seem worried about the ongoing debate Bill C-24 has triggered across the nation. “This act reminds us where we come from and why citizenship has value,” said the minister. “When we take on the obligations of citizens we’re following in the footsteps of millions of people who came here and made outstanding contributions over centuries. And we are celebrating that diversity, solidifying the order and rule of law we have here; we’re committing ourselves to participate as citizens in the life of a very vibrant democracy.”

Immigration experts say Bill C-24 discriminatory and weakens citizenship | Toronto Star.

How Quebec’s charter turned the Tories into ethnic champions – The Globe and Mail

Another article, by Inder Marwah of University of Chicago, and Phil Triadafilopoulos, of UofT, on how the Conservative Party has learned to embrace the “fourth sister” of Canadian politics (ethnic communities) and how the proposed Quebec Charter has furthered that embrace. Not much new compared to commentary by Tom Flanagan, John Ibbitson or others, but it still is a remarkable change.

How Quebec’s charter turned the Tories into ethnic champions – The Globe and Mail.