Steven Harper

Ethnic vote takes Harper to majority promised land

By 
  • May 3, 2011

TORONTO - Once a Liberal bastion thanks to immigrants, ethnic voters in Toronto have given Conservatives the majority they sought.

"The Conservative ethnic ground game paid off in the end," said Jonathan Luk, the graduating president of the University of Toronto Chinese Catholic Community.

Chinese voters in both the 416 and 905 regions responded to values the Conservative Party championed, Luk said. The party took 30 of 44 Greater Toronto Area seats, a key component in gaining a majority government after Stephen Harper presided over two consecutive minority governments.

"When we talk about basic issues — the safety of our society, being tough on crime, respect for tradition and respect for hard work — these are values that Chinese people value," Luk said. "I also see Catholic voters are no different when it comes to those things."

For Tamils, who found themselves featured in an early Conservative attack ad, the community is hoping the new NDP official opposition and the first-ever Tamil Member of Parliament can hold the Conservatives to account for its immigration policies, said Jessica Devi Chandrashekar.

"Those who came out and voted were people who have bared the brunt of the recession and have been unable to reunite with their families because of the Conservative immigration policies," said Chandrashekar. "In Scarborough-Rouge River, a riding comprised mostly of the ethnic vote, (voters) made history in electing Rathika Sitsaiebasan for the NDP. Rathika is the first Sri Lankan Tamil MP elected outside of Sri Lanka. This has enormous significance for Tamil Canadians."

Chandrashekar is one of a new generation of voters, some of whom responded in this election in ways never seen before. Vote mobs organized on Twitter and Facebook swept university campuses, demanding young people seize the power of the ballot.

"I am 27 years old and born in Canada. This was my first time voting," said Chandrashekar. "I am looking forward to becoming more involved in the political process in Canada and the continued changes that the election in 2015 will bring."

The peace vote in Toronto was not overjoyed with the Conservative majority.

"A Conservative majority would be a bad thing for the cause of peace," wrote Deacon Steve Barringer of Pax Christi Toronto in an e-mail as results came in on election night. "They have a poor record of listening to interest groups of any kind."

Pax Christi plans to ramp up its protests in response to Conservative military and foreign policy.

"We will be looking at more aggressive programs, up to and including demonstrations and even civil disobedience against what we believe may be immoral policies," Barringer said.

Barringer puts his hope in a strong opposition from the New Democrats.

"We believe that Mr. Layton will listen," he said.

Catholic eco-theologian and University of Toronto religious studies professor Stephen Bede Sharper is also putting his hope in the NDP opposition, bolstered by the first-ever Green Party seat in Parliament.

"With the NDP's emergence, we now have a solid shot at a party that constitutes a real opposition to the Harper government, with the issues of social justice, workers' rights and the widening gap between rich and poor constituting central, rather than ancillary, political concerns," Sharper wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

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