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best strategy to engage them more is to avoid any patron- izing. The worst is a patronizing approach. All the rest is just the same as all other voters.” Veteran Conservative campaigner John Capobianco is equally as confident as Persichilli but in the opposite di- rection. “I don’t think [ethnic voting blocs] are a myth at all. In ridings where predominantly ethnic voters reside there are trends.” Currently Senior Vice President, Public Affairs for Edelman Canada, Capobianco recently made the switch from strategist to candidate, running federally in Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 2004 and 2006. He experi- enced ethnic voting blocs first-hand by engaging with the large Eastern European population in the riding. “Don’t only go to events or sit down with community

leaders,” Capobianco advises,” but sit down with average voters. It’s not a fly-by-night thing. You have to build a

individual voters, so that niche messaging can be delivered. He or she with the best information wins!” Liberal campaign manager and lawyer, Jason Cherniak, held his ear tight to the ground for several years as one of Canada’s most prominent political bloggers. He believes contrary to what any strategist might say, both the NDP and the Conservatives actively cater to ethnic voters as groups. “Both parties have spent considerable time and re- sources courting specific communities’ votes away from the Liberals in the last few years. Only the next election will tell whether they’ve succeeded.” Cherniak advises candidates from being careful how

they frame their relations with ethnic communities. Some moves are dangerous. “Building successful relationships with specific ethnic communities in some ridings can make or break one’s success on election- day. Ergo, it can

Ethnicity is only one of about eighty segments that I take into account in my campaign strategies.

And I never recommend courting any ethnic community above any other group.

—Michael Marzolini, POLLARA Strategic Insights

relationship, build trust.” He also believes that any com- munity is up for grabs. “Never make assumptions. Don’t assume a group is voting Liberal and thus not spend any time with them.” Capobianco cites Jason Kenney’s activities as the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism as examples of good community relations. “He’s reaching out, trying to understand various communities. The gov- ernment has listened to the communities and that’s the building of the trust.” The Conservative Party of Canada hopes that these efforts will translate into electoral success. Despite his significant experience working with the

NDP, Sean Hill’s views partially match Capobianco’s as- sessment of Jason Kenney’s success. The president of Strat- egem Canada Communications believes that demographic facts belie certain trends in voter priorities. “As South Asian and Asian immigration replaces Eu-

ropeans as the dominant source of new immigrants to Canada, they bring with them different political, social and community values, perspectives, priorities and experi- ences. Many new South Asian and Asian immigrants feel that the Conservatives better reflect their political experi- ence and values. That said, success is tempered by the fact that the Liberal’s egalitarian approach still resonates with many new and established immigrant voters.” Regardless of these trends, Hill thinks campaign strate-

gies are best focused on individuals and not groups. “Eth- nic voters are rarely that different from general voters. The secret is targeting the campaign resources to attract the support from those who are pre-disposed or willing to consider voting for you candidate or party. The Republi- cans in the U.S. and Conservatives in Canada are leaders in micro-targeting. Taking demographic, consumer, com- munity and voting information to create a rich profile for

be a campaign manager’s highest priority if the demo- graphics of the riding or ward indicate as much. However, if one seeks electoral victory through a practice of divid- ing communities to one’s own interests – by say, accusing an entire party of . . . say, something like anti-Semitism - as casually as one would order coffee – one has crossed an ethical line that will ultimately be exposed – and a price will be paid. Promoting the notion of hatred when none exists is simply the egregious practice of slander to self- benefit, and sooner or later voters will see through your Machiavellian tactics and leave you to suffer your igno- minious fate.” There are no easy answers when determining whether the ethnic voting bloc is a myth or not, and if not then which campaign strategies should be employed. The only thing that is certain is that the Canadian political landscape has no unified strategic approach to this topic. If it is the case that ethnic communities are less ho-

mogeneous with their political identities this spells more one-on-one with the voter and less large events where candidates can address a multitude at a time. This may mean more work for candidates and their managers, but Marzolini views that as a good thing. “In the 1970’s and 1980’s it was different, there was

more social cohesion among communities when it came to voting. For campaign managers, it was an “all or noth- ing” affair. Today the situation is more individualistic, and hence healthier. It isn’t as easy for campaign managers, media buyers etc., but why should it be?”

Anthony Furey is an elections columnist for the National Post newspaper as well as a frequent contributor to the Globe & Mail. He also works in corporate and government communica- tions. Email him at

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