Saturday, June 30, 2007


CBC ran a rather unflattering story that painted the Liberal Party as pandering to ethnic extremists to solicit support. To be fair, there were also references to the NDP and the Conservatives, but the focus was the relationship between the Liberals and dodgy elements within the Sikh community. Ethnic politics is nothing new in Canada, in fact I wondered if the story was nothing more than confirmation of the obvious.

The nature of Canada is such that pandering is a political necessity. Every party has traditional support bases which represent a narrow, and sometimes unattractive, viewpoint. In order to expand support, political parties much "reach out" to sub-sections which essentially operate as interest groups. The better politically organized and cohesive the group, such as the Jewish lobby or the Sikh community, the more you can see disproportionate influence.

No one can deny that the Sikh vote in the last Liberal leadership was a critical factor in deciding the outcome. However, to argue that what transpired represents anything more than the ordinary in Canadian politics is disingenuous- it might just be that the turbans provide the visual that eliminates the normal subtlety. My first political experience was as a 15 year old, wherein I was recruited as a "instant Liberal" to cast a vote for someone I had never met. Ethnic voting as a bloc has a long tradition in Canadian politics.

The Conservatives courtships are less obvious, probably due to the bland white on white imagery, but it still exists (are WASP's a voting bloc?). As a matter of fact, the Conservatives would love nothing more than to usurp the Liberals with ethnics (see Jason Kenney). I see no difference in the herd mentality of the Christian Right in the Conservative Party and the Sikh blocs within the Liberal Party. There are countless examples of pastors asking congregations to select the moral choice, organizing to "get out the vote" and all the other typical tactics. In other words, political parties are nothing more than a coalition of various interest groups at their heart. The NDP's traditional base of "union brothers" is another example of bloc voting.

I'm of the opinion that any support based on narrow cultural or ethnic lines is disturbing and seems to conflict with the notion of individual freedom. However, I see nothing in Canada's political circumstance to suggest that anything will change, anytime soon. So long as sub-sections of Canadians realize that there is power in acting as one, there will always be uneven appearances. Tribalism, it seems, is a Canadian staple.


Tomm said...


We are very fortunate in Canada that we do not have powerful Political Parties based on ethnic groups.

This has become an issue in Europe and has been that way in Africa and parts of Asia.

it is very divisive. I think, on the whole, it is good when ethnic blocks find a political party rather than trying to divide directly through ethnicity.

As a country we should remain intolerant of violence, but be open to the views of the people that were the foundation of the originating frustration that led to the violence.

I'm not sure I am being clear.


Steve V said...

The Fraser Institute addresses the Sikh issue.

Karen said...

I hope you all have your computers protected against lightening strikes, because I'm about to agree with a statement by Kim Bolan:

Bolan stressed that politicians need to do more due diligence before meeting with people or groups who claim to represent any immigrant community. In search of the ethnic vote, all too often politicians ignore vital information on the background of the people they are meeting.

That said, I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect that all details will be known at large gatherings, (parades, etc.), still, research must be done in these situations.

It's a really interesting discussion though, because if there is a segment of the population that your party appeals to, you would expect them to be there, ie. labour, gay and lesbian groups, anti-abortion groups, etc.

In my opinion, ethnic groups are open season for all party's, in that they are not a monolith.

This specific gathering requires much scrutiny though. I think as it relates to the Lib's, Ujjal Dosanjh will keep us on track and hopefully go pursue a way to go after that group.

Steve V said...

Knb, I thought that comment was fair too, that's why I posted the link, despite the source ;)

canuckistanian said...

i heart terry milewski! that story was long overdue...the surrey parade was were the ndp's, particularly alexa mcdonough on don newman, excuses for it. gordon cambell takes the cake for having the audacity to state (not verbatim):

"politicians attending these events don't lend credibility to the organizers views"

well, in reality, that is exactly what they do.

ujjal dosanjh, tarek fath, david hayer and bob rae are about the only politicos in the country that don't look dirty in this regard.

the fact that none of the politicians who attended this event enaged in denunciations of the parading of terrorists as heroes after the fact is is jack layton attending the organizers temple the following week.

as the former CSIS agent (juneau ?) said: "when the tamil tigers control 3 federal ridings, you have to expect opportunistic politicians will pander to terrorist groups." (not reference to paul martin and other liberals attending tamil events put on by bannd organizations).

i look forward to the suit brought forth by gerry kennedy, navdeep bains and omar alghabra against thge natty post and jonathon kay to see what kind of light is shed on the issue.

Mark Dowling said...

The documentary did mention that the Dippers (in particular) and the Tories (in BC anyway) will pander too given half a chance. One thing that can be said for Martin is he raised the priority Canada gave to examining the Air India file.

Anonymous said...

The 'hit' piece on the Sikhs on the CBC was likely the dirty work of a failed leadership candidate. If you watch closely, ask yourself who is attacked in that piece and who is promoted from the liberal party in Canada?

Irrespective of that, why shouldn't CANADIANS get involved in politics? isn't that part of citizenship? when did it become de rigeur to broadcast self-promoter's claims, innuendo and falsehood as truth?

who is the opportunist politician? a guy that starts out associating with Trotskyists, then joins a socialist (left) party, drives said political party into oblivion and then jumps ship at the first offer to rehabilitate himself by joining a party farther to the right (and opposed to the leftie views of his original party). someone who accepts honours from a foreign government and goes on a self-promo tour in his 'homeland' on the taxpayer dime? he's the same guy that supported a leadership candidate that lost at that convention.

ASK the NDP who the opportunist politicians are in that piece. last time I checked Dion didn't jump from one part of the political spectrum to the next, to the next, etc...

perhaps you need to examine who each of those politicians is and his motivations for speaking.