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

Of note, pending a more complete analysis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Liberals

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

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

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

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

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

The Conservatives

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Green party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Conservative groups aims to boost representation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

What one would expect given other polling data but still of interest:

Conservatives and Liberals tend to agree that jobs and the economy should rank high when it comes to the immigration file, but concerns for the plight of refugees and integration of immigrants depends on where one falls on the political spectrum, suggests a new study released today.

Whereas many Conservatives prioritize on cultural values, national security, and jobs, the Liberals and NDP place less importance on those concerns, according to a survey from the Digital Democracy Project, a months-long effort that the Public Policy Forum and McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy are leading.

“Partisans differ in terms of what they’re talking about when they talk about immigration, what dimensions … they think about,” said Peter Loewen, a political science professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, one of the report’s authors.

Respondents were asked to rank eight dimensions related to immigration, including social services and welfare; diversity and multiculturalism; and illegal immigration, were of high concern.

For example, Conservative partisans expressed more concern over illegal immigration than other partisans, with 42 per cent saying it’s a concern, compared to 28 and 27 per cent of respondents who identified as Liberal and NDP supporters, respectively, the survey suggested.

The data, based on an online panel survey of 1,559 Canadians, was conducted from Sept. 11 to 16. Online polls are not considered to be truly random and cannot be assigned a margin of error.

There are marked differences between the Liberals and NDP on the immigration file, too. NDP supporters rank Canada’s responsibility towards welcoming refugees as higher on the list over jobs and the economy, while Liberal supporters indicated it as less of a priority, with 29 per cent choosing it as a top concern, compared to 44 per cent who identify with the NDP.

Researchers also found that most Canadians are misinformed about Canada’s immigration levels and refugee intake. Asked how many refugees Canada admitted in 2018, only 12 per cent answered correctly, 61 per cent were unsure, and 24 per cent said it was higher than the actual figure of 28,000.

“The worrying takeaway is that the more people are exposed to traditional news, to social media, the more likely they are to give incorrect answers about immigration levels, refugee intake levels,” Prof. Loewen said. “People are taking misinformation from somewhere in the ecosystem.”

Nativism could also explain differences in views on immigration policy, the report noted. In seeking to measure the level of nativist sentiments with a series of questions, researchers found that while Canadians “exhibit modest levels of nativism,” Liberal and NDP supporters have lower scores than Conservative supporters. (To measure respondents’ openness to nativist sentiments, they were asked to rate six statements, including whether they agree “immigrants take jobs from real Canadians” and if Canada “would be stronger if we stopped immigration,” on a five-point scale.

Attempts to provide information on the economic benefits of immigration had an influence on respondents’ perception of immigration, according to the study. Half of respondents were given an excerpt from a 2018 Conference Board of Canada report that said immigrants are key to economic growth. Among those who weren’t given the report, 23 per cent said immigration was bad for the economy and 57 per cent said it was good. Those figures changed slightly to 19 per cent and 63 per cent among those who viewed the report.

“While theories of motivated reasoning suggest that partisan respondents will reject information that doesn’t conform to their existing values or beliefs, the effect of this intervention was stronger for right-leaning partisans than for left-leaning partisans,” the report noted. “…This suggests that providing the public with relevant information could also influence their opinions on public policy, and that nativism is not as much of an immutable sentiment as commonly believed.”

Though Canada isn’t immune from nativist and populist sentiments, the report noted that such expressions don’t mimic the trends in the U.S. and “far-right parties in Europe.” The report suggested that the embrace of populist sentiments is “most common” among NDP supporters than Liberals, while the Conservatives are in between.

Previous studies from the Digital Democracy Project have looked at how Canadians consume and share media and its effects on their support for policies in the lead-up to the federal election.

Source: Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

Populists Are Dragging Australian Politics to the Right

Too early to say whether Bernier’s PPC will have a similar impact on the Conservatives:

In the crucial Australian state of Queensland, Arthur Plate says he’ll turn his back on mainstream politics when he steps into the ballot box later this month. Instead, the retired miner will pick between a pair of right-wing populists.

The major parties have lost touch and are just out to “line their own pockets,” said the 76-year-old, taking refuge from the searing 100-degree Fahrenheit heat in Clermont, a small mining and farming community.

It’s a refrain heard frequently in the district — one of a handful of closely-held constituencies across the northeastern state that Prime Minister Scott Morrison must retain to stop the left-leaning Labor party from ousting his center-right Liberal-National coalition.

The growing tide of support for populist, single-issue parties in Australia has already reshaped the political landscape, dragging both Labor and the coalition further to the right over the past two decades. Voters like Plate could prove decisive in determining the outcome of the May 18 election, and affect the next government’s ability to pass laws, ranging from proposed tax cuts to curbing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Right-wing populists have taken advantage of major parties’ failure to come up with policies that appeal to white voters on low incomes who aspire to the middle-class but feel they’ve missed out due to negative impacts from globalization and multiculturalism,” said Jo Coghlan, a lecturer at the University of New England and co-author of The Rise of Right-Populism.

Queensland has long been a solid base for Morrison’s coalition, which currently has 21 of the socially conservative state’s 30 seats. But eight of those are held by a margin of less than 4 percent, making them key targets for Labor. The main opposition party is leading in opinion polls and favorite to win office.

But it’s not just a two-way fight between the coalition and Labor. The state is also home to the strongest populist forces in Australian politics — the anti-Muslim immigration party One Nation led by Pauline Hanson, and mining magnate Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Hanson and Palmer are both tapping into disaffection among voters who feel left behind despite almost 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth. While recent scandals have seen support for One Nation slip, a Newspoll released on Monday showed support for Palmer’s party more than doubled in the past month to 5 percent.

Adding to the Morrison’s problems is that regional voters are becoming increasingly disenchanted with his junior coalition partner, the Nationals. The rural-based party has been damaged by infighting and disquiet over its support for coal-mining interests on agricultural land.

While Hanson and Palmer are unlikely to win lower house seats, the pair may take spots in the Senate and together with other fringe groups hold the balance of power in the upper house — giving them crucial influence over the legislative agenda.

Populists and single-issue parties have frequently wielded such power in the Senate, with One Nation and other minor parties in August banding together to kill off planned company tax cuts. In February, four independents helped pass a bill against the government’s wishes enabling better medical care for asylum seekers kept offshore.

Hanson, a former fish-and-chip shop owner, rose to prominence in the 1990s with her outspoken attacks on Asian immigration. While she served less than three years in the lower house before her party collapsed, she left an indelible mark on politics as she shaped the immigration debate and dragged both Labor and the coalition to the right.

That’s created bi-partisan support for the nation’s controversial system of transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to Pacific island camps, with no right to be settled in Australia — a policy opposed by the United Nations and human-rights groups.

The 64-year-old returned to parliament, this time in the Senate, in 2016 and campaigns against Muslim immigration, multiculturalism and free trade. She has another three years before she has to re-contest her seat.

Her party’s brand in this election has been tarnished by revelations One Nation officials last year sought cash donations from the National Rifle Association in the U.S. in exchange for a pledge to help water down Australia’s gun-restriction laws.

Despite winning four upper house seats in 2016, One Nation is now down to two Senate seats due to defections. The party has often under-performed at the ballot box and polls show support may be bleeding away to Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Palmer, 65, is self-funding a $30 million advertising blitz for his party. Hundreds of yellow “Make Australia Great”billboards have popped up across the country, while advertisements have flooded television screens. His thinly articulated manifesto includes cutting taxes and warning that the Chinese government plans a “clandestine takeover of our country.”

Like Hanson, his first foray into politics imploded. He served just one term in the lower house from 2013 to 2016, and two of his three senators in the then Palmer United Party defected. He’s also now embroiled in legal action brought by the government over the collapse of his Queensland Nickel project that left hundreds of workers unpaid.

Nevertheless, Palmer is gaining enough traction for Morrison to take him seriously. The billionaire announced a deal this week that will see the coalition and United Australia back each other’s candidates on how-to-vote cards. That could prove decisive if Morrison continues to close the gap with Labor. The deal may also help catapult Palmer into the Senate.

Australia’s upper house was branded the home of “unrepresentative swill” in 1992 by then-Prime Minister Paul Keating. The most notorious recent example of a fringe populist winning a Senate seat is Fraser Anning, an independent who defected from One Nation. He’s riled mainstream lawmakers by claiming he wants a “final solution” to Australia’s “immigration problem” and blaming New Zealand’s mosque massacre on the nation’s intake of “Muslim fanatics.” Polls show he’s unlikely to retain his Senate seat this month.

If Palmer does win an upper house seat, he’s unlikely to form a voting bloc with One Nation. He and Hanson have often criticized each others’ policies and personalities.

Compared with the populist sentiment that swept Donald Trump to power in the U.S. or delivered the Brexit referendum in the U.K., the power of fringe parties remains muted in Australia by a lack of organizational skill and competence, according to University of New England’s Coghlan.

But their influence remains pervasive.

“The faces in right-wing populism may come and go,” she said. “But the changes they’ve made to Australia’s social agenda seems permanent.”

Source: Populists Are Dragging Australian Politics to the Right

Implementing diversity and inclusion in Parliament: A more complete picture | My piece in the

With the appointment of parliamentary secretaries and opposition critics, we now have a more comprehensive picture of gender and visible minority diversity in Parliament’s leadership positions. How well has the Liberal government implemented its overall diversity and inclusion commitments, and how have the other parties responded to the “because it’s 2015” challenge?

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a Cabinet with gender parity (15 each of men and women) and almost 17 per cent visible minority ministers (four Sikh and one Afghan Canadian), gender parity was not attained for parliamentary secretaries (12 positions out of 35 or 34 per cent). Visible minority parliamentary secretaries are over-represented (nine positions or 24 per cent) in relation to their share of the voting population (15 per cent).

Moreover, the government addressed some of the criticism regarding Cabinet over-representation of Sikhs by appointing three African Canadians, one Chinese, one Arab, one Latin American and three South Asians (two Sikhs, one Ismaili Muslim). Three of the nine visible minority parliamentary secretaries are women, including Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.

In total, of the 68 leadership positions (ministers, parliamentary secretaries, whips, and House leaders), 59 per cent are men, and 21 per cent are visible minority men or women. The detailed breakdown is shown in the chart below:

In terms of percentage of caucus, there are 27 women in leadership positions out of 50 elected, or 54 per cent. For visible minorities, there are 14 out of 39 elected, or 36 per cent. In contrast, 30 non-visible minority men are in leadership positions out of 134 elected, or 20 per cent.

No matter how one looks at the data, this marks a major shift in government parliamentary leadership appointments, towards more women and visible minorities.

The Conservative official opposition compensated for their relatively low number of women MPs (17 per cent of caucus), making 35 per cent of critics women (the Harper government’s last Cabinet similarly appointed more women to Cabinet—31 per cent—compared to the 17 per cent in caucus).

However, with a small number of visible minority MPs (six or six per cent of caucus), critic visible minority representation is only slightly compensated at nine per cent, although visible minority MPs form 13 per cent of the smaller number of deputy critics. But in relation to caucus membership, 50 per cent of visible minority Conservative MPs are critics, reflecting again the same drive to present a more inclusive face to Canadians.

The NDP opposition has the largest proportionate female caucus representation: 41 per cent. It is no surprise that women MPs form 45 per cent of critics. With only two visible minority MPs to choose from, only one (three per cent) is a critic (but again, this is 50 per cent of those elected).

So what does all this mean in terms of diversity and inclusion?

The Liberal government, given the large number of women (50) and visible minority (39) MPs elected had little difficulty in meeting its stated goals of Cabinet gender parity (but slipped in other leadership positions). It also was able to significantly exceed visible minority representation in relation to the number of visible minority voters.

This ‘over-representation’ reflects a conscious decision to demonstrate diversity and inclusion, one that started with having the highest percentage of visible minority candidates (17 per cent) compared to the other major parties (13 per cent).

For both opposition parties, the weakness in visible minority representation reflects the small number of visible minority MPs elected. With respect to women, the Conservatives responded to the ‘because its 2015’ challenge, compensating for their small number of women MPs, and applying the same approach to visible minorities. The NDP made the most effort in recruiting female candidates, many of whom were successful, and thus close to gender parity was not a challenge.

All in all, taken together, the Liberal leadership positions reflect a significant implementation of the diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism agenda, one that, given the horizontal ministerial comment for parity and diversity in all government appointments, holds significant promise in ensuring greater representation in government.

Moreover, to the extent that the opposition parties could, their choices recognize the need to respond to this agenda and ensure that their leadership reflects Canadian diversity.

Source: Implementing diversity and inclusion in Parliament: A more complete picture |

Loewen: Support for Conservatives’ niqab ban is deep and wide, even among immigrants

Analysis by Peter Loewen

Analysis by Peter Loewen

Interesting analysis by Daniel Robinson and Peter Loewen on the changing voting patterns of immigrant voters and the niqab, providing more analysis than in Doug Saunders synopsis (How Tories win immigrant votes using anti-immigrant messages). The chart above compares party supporter views:

On the citizenship oath measure, 72 per cent of Canadians agree. Just 14 per cent disagree. (Another 14 per cent either don’t know or are ambivalent.) This opinion is not isolated to “old stock” Canadians. Among those citizens born outside the country, 70 per cent agree with forcing women to reveal their faces.

… It is a similar story when we ask whether the public service should ban niqabs. Sixty-four per cent of people we surveyed support such a ban. Just 19 per cent oppose it. Support is undiminished among immigrants, where two-thirds (66 per cent) would support a ban and just 16 per cent would not. …

Some have noted that the niqab is an effective issue, not only because it garners wide support but also because it is largely irrelevant to voters. It is, at best, a useful distraction. But this misses something important about voters: they often take their cues from politicians about what is important. By the time we surveyed voters, the niqab had been a point of discussion for more than two weeks. When we asked our respondents how important the issue is to them, 78 per cent indicated that the niqab in citizenship ceremonies is a somewhat or very important issue. We got the same results when we asked about a niqab ban in the public service.

We now have a situation in which opinion-leaders – newspaper columnists, pundits, commentators – almost uniformly insist that a policy is both wrong and unimportant while voters disagree on both accounts.

Our data tell a broader story about multiculturalism and Tory support. Political scientists – especially André Blais and Richard Johnston – have long noted that the 20th century dominance of the Liberal party was attributable to outsized support among Catholics and visible minorities, perhaps especially immigrants (to the extent that those categories overlap). Consequently, the Tories have spent considerable effort courting various groups of immigrants to their party.

Data from both the 2011 Canadian Election Study and Ipsos-Reid’s massive 2011 exit survey suggest that the Tories may have finally closed this “immigrant gap” in the last election. Our data suggest that they have now not only closed the gap, but have created a significant advantage of their own among immigrant Canadians.

To test this, we calculated the odds of Canadians voting Conservative that controls for a respondent’s age, income, education and gender, province of residence and, importantly, religion.

The results, which draw on massive sample sizes, show that a native-born citizen has a 27 per cent likelihood of voting Conservative. The likelihood for an immigrant Canadian voting Conservative is 34 per cent.

Because we controlled for religious affiliation, we can also estimate these effects. Compared to the non-religious, Jews and non-Orthodox Christians have a greater likelihood of voting for the Conservative party. But among Muslim Canadians, there is a clear aversion to the Conservative Party of Canada.

The niqab has become a campaign issue in this election, and perhaps the issue. The are several reasons for this, but public opinion research points to one of the more important ones: given the consistent, widespread support across the political spectrum for the Conservatives’ stated position, the Tories can only stand to gain from the issue playing prominently in the public discourse.

Source: Loewen: Support for Conservatives’ niqab ban is deep and wide, even among immigrants | Ottawa Citizen

Shopping for Votes by Susan Delacourt

Shopping for Votes provides a good overview of how politics has become more sophisticated in marketing approaches, and how this sophistication has increased over time. Some observations:

  • A large part of her thesis concerns the shift from viewing voters as citizens to viewing them as consumers, and the implications this has for policy (more “what’s in it for me” than what was viewed to be in the national interest, e.g., Mulroney govt initiatives like the FTA or GST). In one sense, this intrinsically plays into a more conservative agenda, as consumer/taxpayers will prefer lower taxes and be more critical of government services. It is harder to develop equally sharp messaging on the value of government services than more money in people’s pockets.
  • Political parties are more sophisticated in their understanding of voters than is the public service, given their incredibly developed polling and social science understanding of what motivates people. This knowledge is centralized, as is party messaging, and further contributes to a reduced role for MPs given that the parties have more knowledge about voters than local MPs. As public service polling and other research spending has decreased, and is largely at the macro big picture level, political parties have a more granular and targeted understanding. Public service advice has to consider all Canadians; increasingly political parties are focused on their base and potential growth of their base.
  • Highly ironic that the Conservative Party, justifiably criticized for their rejection of social science and other evidence-based policy making, has the most sophisticated social policy, behavioural research and polling to further their electoral objectives. What is effectively used  in the pursuit of power, is often rejected  in the exercise of power.

Well worth reading.