Parties Can Only Lose By Chasing The Ethnic Vote

Parties can only lose by chasing the ethnic vote

The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 30, 2008)

“We should vote for those candidates and parties who are sympathetic to Muslims,” a radical Islamic magazine, published in Toronto, said about the recent federal election.

“It's our duty to uphold Islamic laws and Islam's supremacy in Canada and all over the world, so vote for those who seem to further our agenda,” the Urdu-language magazine suggests in the next paragraph.

These lines reveal the intention — and an attempt — by some of our ethnic groups to influence the political process.

This magazine, which has always supported the Taliban, analyzed how Muslim voters could shift election results in at least 100 seats across Canada.

It doesn't matter whether the publishers of this magazine were able to make a huge difference. What matters is that our political parties, in general, are very attractive to such voting groups.

The magazine printed a photo of NDP Leader Jack Layton on the cover, and depicted him as a strong leader.

But Liberals were also deemed to be quite attractive to these voters.

Despite the magazine's claim that its readers could influence the results in more than 100 ridings, the Liberals and NDP together could secure just 114 seats.

Critics are accusing Liberal Leader Stephane Dion for the historic failure of Liberals in this election. But it was not just the leader, his carbon-tax plan or a bad campaign that led to the Liberal catastrophe. In my opinion, one of the major reasons for the party's failure was its overemphasis over the last decade on welcoming new Canadian and ethnic voters while ignoring mainstream Canadians.

It sometimes looked like Liberal candidates were paying more attention to ethnic issues than to national issues.

The NDP did improve its number in Parliament from 29 in 2006 to 37 now. But the NDP is still not strong enough to have influence in the country.

On the other hand, the Conservatives gained a lot. That party clearly seems to represent mainstream Canadians.

The Liberals and NDP both claim liberal values but they are too close to the ethnic-religious pockets. Their left-of-centre stance has been messed up with their support of some closed religious communities.

The Liberals and the NDP should both understand that exploiting ethnic votes is neither going to serve their purposes, nor help ethnic communities. By encouraging religious ghettos in the name of liberalism, these parties are not helping them to be an open part of Canadian society.

It is that sort of politics that put Mississauga-Erindale NDP candidate Mustafa Rizvi, who is of Muslim descent, in a terrible scenario. He received several threatening calls, calling him a traitor of Islam and accusing him of dividing Muslim votes, which callers said caused the defeat of Liberal incumbent Omar Alghabra — also a Muslim.

This trend is not a good sign in our politics.

The Liberals and NDP should denounce closed-style religious communities and demand that they integrate into Canada's secular society.

Tahir Aslam Gora is a Pakistani-Canadian writer living in Burlington. E-mail