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Courting the ethnic vote


By Anthony Furey

he creation of electoral boundaries in Canada follows two basic considerations:


the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and

(ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province. (source Elections Canada)

Because of these considerations, many communities in Canada that feature large cultural enclaves often make up a considerable geographic segment of a single riding, es- pecially urban ridings. In many of these communities, citizens seek and take advice and direction from the community leaders, which can include businesspersons, religious officials and com- munity elders. This advice might include who to marry, where to buy a house, what to name your child, what business to enter or choice of career, as well as who to vote for.

The latter compels political strategists from all parties and at all levels of government to invest a large amount of time on attempting to woo these ethnic communities into siding with a specific candidate, or party, en masse. There have been just as many failures as there have been successes to these strategies. So, before you begin translating your campaign literature into different languages and recruiting ethnic campaign members to be your community liaisons, it’s important to question the very foundations of these “ethnic outreach” strategies. As being “ethnic” increasingly becomes less in the Canada we know today, we asked a wide spectrum of campaign experts their views on whether ethnic voting blocs truly exist anymore, and if, so how campaign strate- gies geared to engaging them should be handled. Michael Marzolini knows a thing or two about statistics. As the chief pollster and strategist for the Liberal Party since 1992 and as Chairman of POLLARA Strategic In- sights since 1985, Marzolini has played a major role in over 550 election campaigns and boasts an 86% victory rate. “Ethnicity is only one of about eighty segments that

I take into account in my campaign strategies,” writes Marzolini. “And I never recommend courting any eth- nic community above any other group – people know when they’re being patronized.” He also believes that this becomes harder to pull off the longer an immigrant group has been in Canada. “As each wave of immigration evolves, matures, and becomes absorbed into the main- stream Canadian fabric, they are less inclined to vote ho-

14 Politics | Canadian Edition

mogeneously. In the 1970s, 80% of Italian Canadians voted Liberal – today it is 58%. The Italians followed the Hun- garians, the Portuguese followed the Italians, the Chinese, Vietnamese, Sikhs, etc. are now maturing as communities and voting independently.” Amanda Alvaro agrees with her fellow Liberal that later generations are less attached to their ethnic communities but places a greater emphasis on using available statistical data to appropriately craft messages to specific communities. Aside from being the former national communications di- rector for Gerard Kennedy’s 2006 federal Liberal leadership campaign Alvaro works with one of the agencies respon- sible for the Gandalf Group’s Consumerology study. “There are truly significant differences in taste, activities and attitudes between New Canadians and those who have been here for more than two generations. As such, com- municating to ‘ethnic communities’, like communicating to different genders and ages, requires its own strategy.” One of the ways to craft this strategy is to analyze the media consumption patterns of these groups to understand how your message can best impact them. “Television view- ing, which tends to be more prevalent among men and non-parents, consumes at least as much time, if not more, among new Canadians as those 3rd generation plus. Yet new Canadians display little interest in non-English program- ming. Eighty percent of 1st generation Canadians and 94% of 2nd generation spend less than an hour a week watching television in a language other than English or French.” “The point being, that because the media consumption habits of new Canadians and those who have lived here for more than two generations differ, the media mix and com- munications strategy has to take into account where they consume media and how to best deliver the message.” It might be natural to think that writer Angelo Persichilli

believes strongly in the idea of an ethnic voting bloc. While most widely known as a columnist for the Toronto Star and The Hill Times, Persichilli is also the political editor of Cor- riere Canadese, a daily Toronto newspaper written in Italian. But Persichilli rejects the notion that Canada’s ethnic citi- zens assemble into easily netted voting blocs. “Of course cultural affinities are playing a factor in the

voting process, but not more than any other community like the Anglophone or Francophone. If anything it is less. In fact, if we look at the ethno-cultural make up of the [To- ronto] megacity and the representation these communities have in the City Council, we will see that the ethnic voting bloc is not there; and, if it is there, it doesn’t work.” Persichilli is blunt about policies geared to ethnic com-

munities: “It would be counterproductive; not just with other communities, but also within the community. The Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69
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