TARGETING ETHNIC VOTERS: INSIDE THE CONSERVATIVES' ELECTION PLAN
Tories target specific ethnic voters
The Globe and Mail
October 16, 2007
OTTAWA — Select ethnic and religious groups across Canada are being targeted by a previously unknown Conservative team that is bluntly gunning for votes in a bid to supplant the Liberals in multicultural ridings in the next election.
The operation's strategic blueprint, obtained by The Globe and Mail, states the “ethnic outreach team” is largely overseen by the Prime Minister's Office and Jason Kenney, the junior minister for multiculturalism.
The documents show the Conservatives have ruled out winning over all ethnic groups, asserting that perhaps as much as a fifth of them are not “accessible” to the Conservative Party.
Overall, the comprehensive strategy involves targeted mailings, one-on-one meetings at “major ethnic events” and the creation of large databases of immigrants and new Canadians.
In a briefing that was handed to Conservative officials at a private session this year, the top-level team illustrated its work by applying the strategy to the Toronto-area riding of Thornhill. The finding was clear: Getting more votes from Jews and specific ethnic groups was seen as the ticket to an upset over the Liberals in the next election.
The documents are surfacing as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under fire for sending personalized Rosh Hashanah greetings last month to Jews, some of whom wonder how they ended up on Mr. Harper's mailing list.
With their struggles to win seats in Canada's three biggest cities in 2004 and 2006, Conservatives are convinced that the support of new Canadians is crucial in taking over a number of urban ridings that are currently in Liberal hands.
Mr. Kenney, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, laid out the outreach strategy at a private “political training conference” for Conservatives from across the country in Toronto in March.
He said the goal is to launch a “focused direct voter campaign to build support” for the Conservative Party. He added that over the long term, the Conservatives want to “replace the Liberals as the primary voice of new Canadians and ethnic minorities.”
The “outreach team” used a Canadian Heritage government computer to create the initial version of a document that was provided at the political training conference in March. A spokesman for Mr. Kenney explained that the final version, including Conservative logos, was modified on another outside computer.
In another presentation, Conservative community relations manager Georganne Burke told Conservatives that outreach calls on them to work beyond their traditional base, even if it means “to look outside your normal comfort zone.”
Concretely, Ms. Burke urged Conservative candidates and organizers to break down each riding's ethnic and religious composition, and directly target potential voters.
She said that Conservatives should use all available opportunities to “build the database” of ethnic voters, by renting or buying lists of names from third parties and by attending events where they can gather business cards and guest lists.
To highlight how ethnic outreach works, Ms. Burke used the example of the riding of Thornhill, where 37 per cent of voters are Jewish, according to the Conservative documents.
The documents add that 29 per cent of the riding is made up of visible minorities, while explaining that the Conservatives have determined that only 79 per cent of ethnic minorities are viewed as “accessible communities” for them.
The key to finding an extra 5,000 votes in the area and taking it over from the Liberals, according to Ms. Burke's presentation, is to “target growth in the Jewish community, and those visible minority communities which are accessible.”
The presentation said that if the strategy works, “we can find the votes we need.”
Conservative spokesman Ryan Sparrow did not expand on the Thornhill case study or the 79-per-cent figure of accessible communities, saying he “cannot discuss party strategy.”
The Liberals have never shied in their attempts to win votes in immigrant communities either, developing the policy of multiculturalism that calls on various ethnic groups to keep their heritage once in Canada.
Now Mr. Kenney, who holds the multiculturalism portfolio in Ottawa, has laid out the long-term nitty-gritty work behind efforts to win over immigrant groups for partisan purposes.
In addition to the work of Mr. Kenney and Ms. Burke, the documents says the PMO is responsible for statements in the House of Commons dealing with ethnic communities, and can help to secure the attendance of Mr. Harper or senior ministers at “major ethnic events.”
With pictures highlighting his own meetings with members of Canada's visible minorities, Mr. Kenney said his responsibilities include attending “key events flagged by caucus.”
The Conservative Party is also calling on MPs to focus on specific groups, with Barry Devolin in charge of the Korean community, Heritage Minister Jose Verner with a responsibility for Haitians and Dean Del Mastro overseeing the Lebanese.
The presentations said that Conservatives have a lot of work to do.
“New Canadians and minorities still don't know/understand the Conservative Party,” a document said, adding that “fear mongering over Conservative's priorities still exist (eg. anti-immigration).”
Still, the Conservative Party's strong suit is that there is “growing anecdotal evidence that New Canadian values are more aligned with the values of the Conservative Party of Canada.”
The presentation urged Conservative candidates to trumpet their party's past achievements, such as cutting the right-of-landing fee for immigrants and the 1988 redress to the Japanese for their internment during the Second World War.
Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for Mr. Kenney, added that the Harper government is reaching out to “all Canadians,” saying the Liberals have been taking the support of some groups “for granted.”
Short-term goal: Ethnic outreach team, overseen by the Prime Minister's Office and Jason Kenney, the junior minister for multiculturalism, selects ethnic and religious minorities in 'a focused direct voter campaign
Long-term goal: Replace the Liberals as the primary voice of new Canadians and ethnic minorities'
A Sample Outreach Strategy – Thornhill
Total population: 116,640
Visible Minorities: 33,675 (29%)
South Asian: 6,595
West Asian: 2,355
-79% of visible minorities are viewed as CPC accessible communities
A Sample Outreach Strategy (cont'd)
Christian Orthodox: 4,425
Jewish: 42,710 (37%)
Non-official languages: 16,280
English and non-official language: 26,900
Details on ethnic profiling from the Thornhill, Ont., Riding in the Conservative party campaign document entitled Building Bridges with Ethnic Communities and New Canadians