Why is it important for political parties to have ethnic outreach programs?

By Alireza Ahmadian in Vancouver, BC

(This document will be updated regularly)

With the next federal election to take place in October this year, political parties will launch orchestrated campaigns to win “ethnic votes.” These are votes cast by new and relatively recent citizens of Canada who emigrated from all over the world. Some academics argue that “there’s no evidence that ethnic outreach actually works.” Does this mean that strategic plans developed by different political parties to reach out to ethnic minorities in the hope of getting their votes are futile? It does not.

Benefits of Ethnic Outreach:

The 2016 Census illustrates that 21.9% of Canada’s population was foreign-born, and 22.3% was made up of visible minorities. As the federal government continues to increase immigration levels, statistics of the top 10 source countries in 2016 and 2017 illustrate that the population of visible minorities is going up. Moreover, ethnic minorities form the majority of population in at least 41 federal ridings.

New Canadian citizens do not have a long history of living in Canada. They had to meet certain residency, tax and language requirements and most of them had to take a citizenship test based on the official citizenship study guide (Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship) before becoming citizens and eligible to vote in elections.

It is fair to say that like many of the native-born population, the knowledge of new citizens about Canadian politics is limited. Therefore, political outreach to these communities, although tainted by partisanship, can raise their awareness and knowledge about different issues, help politicize them and encourage them to play an active role and vote in elections. An active citizen is an asset in a democratic country.

Furthermore, by reaching out to ethnic communities, a political party can identify talented individuals that through mentorship and coaching can one day become the candidates for the party in a future election. This can help diversify a political party not only in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in thought and ideas. It can also encourage ethnic minorities to take special interest in a political party with a candidate who shares their ethnicity and/or cultural heritage.

Finally, the fact that major political parties develop strategic plans to reach out to ethnic minorities illustrates that there is an awareness amongst most of the political elites in Canada that in order to form a government, a political party must win the votes of ethnic minorities. This sentiment, in turn keeps in check the tendency to promote anti-immigrant and anti-immigration policies. Canada benefits when citizens feel that there is equal opportunity for everyone, and when hard work, and not the color of people’s skin or the place of their births, determines whether they can lead successful and prosperous lives.