It's no coincidence that the party that ran most visible minority candidates swept the election, calling into question the effectiveness of Conservative outreach efforts to new Canadians
Note this post updated 25 Oct with the addition of one Conservative MP.
In contrast to the 2011 election, where 9.4 percent of all MPs were visible minorities, 2015 representation is aligned to the number of visible minority citizens (14 percent compared to 15 percent). Moreover, the success of the Liberal Party in decisively winning the visible minority vote suggests that the Conservative Party’s extensive outreach to immigrant and visible minority communities had limited impact in stemming losses, and that concerns over the impact of changes to citizenship and immigration may have played a part.
Moreover, the percentage of visible minorities elected was identical to the percentage of visible minority candidates, which also had increased to 14 percent from 10 percent in the elections of 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 (see Visible Minority Candidates – 2015 Election – Background Note for details). The Liberal party had the most visible minority candidates (16 percent) with the Conservative party and the NDP had slight under-representation (13 percent)
For comparison, the number of women and Aboriginal MPs only slightly increased in 2015. Analysis by Equal Voiceshows the number of elected rose from 25 percent in 2011 to 26 percent today (88 women). Representation of Aboriginal peoples also increased to 10 seats (3 percent) from 7.
To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent). I was not able to break this down by those who are first generation immigrants and those who were born in Canada (second generation).
The chart above contrasts the 2015 visible minority representation with the 2011 election results. Not surprisingly, the Liberals, given their overall strong election result, will have the caucus with the largest number of visible minority MPs: 39 or 21.2 percent, significantly above the percentage of visible minority citizens (and Liberal candidates). Conversely, given their poor results, both the Conservatives and the NDP elected less than half of their visible minority candidates.
Looking at 2015 results only, the chart above provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 47 ridings that elected visible minority MPs, minority, broken down by gender. As others have noted, given that the overall number of visible minority MPs is comparable to the number of visible minority candidates (14 percent), visible minority candidates ran in ridings where they can be elected,.
While 23 of these 47 MPs come from ridings where 50 percent are visible minority, 15 come from ridings between 20 to 50 percent visible minority. Surprisingly, nine come from ridings with less than 20 percent visible minority, and five of those with less than five percent. In other words, visible minorities were even elected in ridings where over 80 percent are non-visible minorities.
Visible minority MPs are 68 percent men, 32 percent women, higher than the percentage of all women MPs (26 percent).
Liberal visible minority candidates won 39 seats (83 percent), the Conservatives five (13 percent), the NDP 2 (4 percent).
Table 1 2015 Election – List of Visible Minority MPs lists the ridings, their percentage of visible minorities, and the MPs elected.
Turning to the 33 ridings where visible minorities comprise more than 50 percent of the population (which we will call visible majority ridings), the following characteristics emerge:
- Both two-thirds of candidates (68) and two-thirds of elected MPs (23) are visible minority;
- 48 percent are visible minority men, 21 percent visible minority women;
- The Liberals took all but three of these ridings (two went Conservative, one NDP);
- The popular vote for these 33 ridings shows stronger support for Liberals among visible majority ridings (52.3 percent) compared to overall results (39.5 percent). Riding-by-riding, the winning Liberal candidate won over 50 percent of the vote, a majority not just a plurality;
- In contrast, the popular vote for the Conservatives in these ridings is virtually identical (31.6 percent) to their overall results (31.9 percent). It would appear their base vote is the same among visible minorities as the general population.
- The NDP did less well in these ridings (15.9 percent) compared to their overall results (19.7 percent);
- Out of the 9 ridings where Chinese Canadians formed the dominant group, 3 Chinese Canadians were elected. In contrast, out of the 14 ridings where South Asians formed the dominant group, 8 were elected, mainly Sikh Canadians; and,
- 10 non-visible minority MPs were elected in these ridings.
Table 2 2015 Election – 33 Ridings more than 50 percent visible minorities provides the demographics of these ridings, along with the names of elected MPs and their share of the popular vote.
In many ways, this is a remarkable achievement, achieving close to parity in parliamentary representation of visible minorities. No other comparable country is as representative of its population.
Visible minority MPs, as all MPs, will be expected to play not only on the issues of interest to their constituents but also on broader policy issues and debates. And hopefully, the incoming government will provide greater latitude for all MPs for debates and discussion, rather than the excessive reliance on centralized talking points under the Conservative government.
They can be expected also to play on foreign policy and diaspora issues of interest to their community, much as other ethnic communities such as Ukrainian Canadians and Canadian Jews continue to do.
Secondly, with 39 visible minority MPs in the incoming Liberal government, we will need to see how many are appointed to cabinet and to which positions, and how this is balanced against other cabinet representation issues like regional representation (PM Trudeau has already committed to gender parity). The Conservative government relegated visible minorities to junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors) and it remains to be seen whether Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint a visible minority member to a more senior position.
Thirdly, the Conservative party needs to reflect on the effectiveness of the extensive outreach of Minister Kenney and others to new Canadian communities. Being 20 percent behind the Liberals in many of these ridings means that ‘being there’ is not enough. While some of this shift reflects the general trend in urban Canada, it also likely reflects changes to citizenship and immigration policy which impact on these communities (e.g., more difficult family reunification and citizenship). And overplaying the niqab and related issues in such an obvious wedge politics manner can hardly have helped.
One thing is clear. Visible minorities are an intrinsic part of electoral and political strategies. No party can afford to ignore them, given their size and political weight. And one of the election’s lessons is that the divisiveness of wedge politics is not a winning strategy among visible minority and other voters. Hopefully, that will be an enduring lesson, sparing Canadians of whatever origin, of such approaches in the future, and strengthening overall integration.
Photo: Chandra Arya / Fair Use