In The Media

Swing ridings with high visible minority populations will tilt 2019 federal election, says politicos

by Abbas Rana (feat. Andrew Griffith)

The Hill Times
November 20, 2017

Some 41 “swing” ridings with visible minority populations of 50 per cent or more, including five constituencies in the Greater Toronto Area that have 80 per cent or more visible minorities, will be key battlegrounds for all major parties in the 2019 election, say politicos.

“These ridings will elect the next government,” said rookie Conservative MP Bob Saroya (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “These are the swing ridings.”

Based on the 2016 census data, recently released by Statistics Canada, and a list compiled by author and multiculturalism expert Andrew Griffith, 27 of the 41 ridings are located in Ontario, nine in British Columbia, two each in Alberta and Quebec, and one in Manitoba.

Among the 41, there are five GTA-area ridings with visible minority populations greater than 80 per cent: Scarborough North (92.2 per cent), Brampton East (90.6 per cent), Markham-Thornhill (84.8 per cent), Markham-Unionville (84.6 per cent), and Scarborough-Agincourt (80.6 per cent). And there are 12 ridings in Ontario and British Columbia combined where visible minorities comprise between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the population. 

The list of ridings with more than 50 per cent visible minority populations grew by eight seats in 2016 compared to the 2011 census’ National Household Survey.

In the 2011 survey, there were 33 ridings across the country boasting visible minority populations of 50 per cent or more. Of those, 23 were located in Ontario, eight in B.C., one in Quebec, and one in Alberta. At the time, there were three ridings with a more than 80 per cent visible minority population: Scarborough North (90.1 per cent), Brampton East (87.6 per cent), and Markham-Thornhill (82 per cent).

In the 2015 election, the Liberals won 35 of the 41, or 85 per cent of the ridings. The Conservatives and the New Democrats won three apiece, or about seven per cent each. Two of the 35 victorious Liberals are not part of the party caucus anymore: Darshan Kang (Calgary Skyview, Alta.), who is now sitting as an independent after facing sexual harassment allegations, and Liberal MP Arnold Chan (Scarborough-Agincourt, Ont.) who died in September. A byelection will be held in Scarborough-Agincourt on Dec. 11.

Compared to the 2011 election, there were 30 more seats up for grabs in the 2015 election, because of the redistribution of electoral boundaries. Of the 338 seats open in the last election, the Liberals won 184, the Conservatives 99, the New Democratic Party 44, Bloc Québécois 10, and the Green Party one seat. 

Mr. Saroya said his party is paying close attention to the ethnically diverse ridings, and will have specific policies in the 2019 election platform to attract voters in these ridings. He declined to offer any specifics, but said the Conservative Party’s delegates will decide policies at the Halifax, N.S. convention in September 2018. However, Mr. Saroya suggested that immigration will be one of the key areas where his party is planning on proposing policies to attract new Canadians.

“The party is working on the platform for these ridings as well as for the entire Canada, and we will have something for all these ridings meaningful,” he said.

Mr. Griffith, a former Immigration Canada senior public servant and author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, described the 41 ridings as the key “battleground” in the next election, with all parties likely to put in place certain strategies to win.

“They’re potential ridings that can switch from one party to another,” said Mr. Griffith. “These battleground ridings are those that are new Canadian rich, mainly in the suburbs, Lower Mainland, B.C., and the 905 in Southern Ontario. Of course, that has an ongoing implication for the electoral strategies of the various parties.” 

Seven-term Liberal MP Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek, Ont.) said she feels “blessed” to be representing an ethnically diverse riding, but acknowledged it comes with challenges. Immigration related issues such as visitor visas, delays in processing of applications, and family sponsorships constitute the bulk of the constituency work in these ridings, she said.

“Immigration is the biggest part of our work that we do,” said Ms. Sgro whose riding has a 74.1 per cent visible minority population. “A lot of them want their families over [in Canada] and so on. It keeps us very busy.”

Ms. Sgro said since November 2016, her office has processed about 3,400 constituent case files related to a variety of areas. Of these, 1,500 were related to immigration and about 1,800 were about the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Child Tax Benefit, and Canada Revenue Agency tax issues.

Since the 2015 election, MPs representing major urban centre ridings have told The Hill Times that immigration is largely the No. 1 public policy and political issue. The national Liberal Caucus has established four regional caucuses to discuss how to address the concerns of their constituents related to immigration.

Ms. Sgro said that before casting their votes in 2019, constituents will look at the quality of constituency service that an MP provided to them, and whether the policies of a political party are “family oriented.” On both counts, she hoped that his constituents and others across the country would vote for her party next time.

Rookie Liberal MP Mary Ng (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) agreed: “We’re going to be judged by how hard we work, and how we serve the people in our communities,” said Ms. Ng, whose riding has 84.6 visible minority population. “I intend to do that, and judging by talking to my caucus colleagues, everyone’s working hard.”

NDP MP Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, B.C.) described the ethnically diverse ridings as the “face of Canada” and “the most representative communities in the country,” and said with Jagmeet Singh as the new NDP leader, the party will be able to make significant gains in these ethnically diverse seats.

Mr. Davies pointed out that the NDP is the only political party in the annals of Canadian history that has elected a visible minority national party leader.

“Jagmeet Singh is the very first leader of any federal party in Canada in 150 years who is a member of a visible minority. In many ways, Jagmeet is the face of Canada for the 21st century,” he said.

“He [Jagmeet Singh] resonates with new Canadians in a way that say Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer, with all due respect to them, I’m not taking anything away from them, they clearly don’t have that same personal experience that Jagmeet has.”

Mr. Davies declined to say how many of these visible minority-rich ridings he thinks the NDP can possibly win in the next election, but said the party will do well.

“I see us making large gains, particularly in those cities,” said Mr. Davies. “There’s no limit how well we’ll do in the next election.”

However, Ms. Sgro said the Liberal Party has the best chance of forming government in the next election, so Canadians will vote for the Liberals rather than “wasting their vote their vote on an opposition party or a third party.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about who has the best chance of actually forming government, because if they’re not in government, you can’t implement the kind of policies that are family oriented that we’re trying to do. It’s really important for Canadians to understand the importance of not wasting their vote on an opposition party or a third party,” said Ms. Sgro.

But Mr. Davies said the Liberal Party was the third-place party prior to 2015 general election and the Canadians brought the Liberals to power with a majority government. He questioned why couldn’t it happen for his party.

“That’s a very cynical or self-serving interpretation,” said Mr. Davies. “If the Liberals truly believe that, they’ll have a hard time explaining the last election where they had 34 seats and NDP had 103. We were the official opposition, and the Liberals went from 34 to government. [Now] They’re afraid of Jagmeet Singh. They understand very clearly the appeal that Jagmeet Singh has to new Canadians and to urban ridings.”

Pollster Greg Lyle of Innovative Research said that by electing a visible minority as the party leader, the NDP has an opportunity to make gains in ethnically diverse ridings in 2019. He also said that visible minorities played an important role in the Liberal Party’s win in the last election. To win another election, he said, the Liberals need these voters.

“It’s an important element of their [Liberal] coalition,” Mr. Lyle said. “It means that issues like immigration and issues of identity are important issues for the Tories and the NDP to address. And the NDP by electing a visible minority as their leader, that is an opportunity.”

Riding Name MP       Visible Minority Population

  1. Scarborough North, Ont. Liberal MP Shaun Chen 92.2%
  2. Brampton East, Ont. Liberal MP Raj Grewal 90.6%
  3. Markham-Thornhill, Ont. Liberal MP Mary Ng  84.8%
  4. Markham Unionvill, Ont. Conservative MP Bob Saroya 84.6%
  5. Scarborough-Agincourt, Ont. vacant 80.6%
  6. Vancouver South, B.C. Liberal MP Harjit Sajjan       79.7%
  7. Brampton West, Ont. Liberal MP Kamal Khera 78.7%
  8. Mississauga-Malton, Ont. Liebral MP Navdeep Bains 78.1%
  9. Richmond Centre, B.C. Conservative MP Alice Wong 77.8%
  10. Surrey-Newton, B.C. Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal 76.2%
  11. Etobicoke North, Ont. Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan 75.7%
  12. Steveston-Richmond East, B.C. Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido 74.8%
  13. Humber River-Black Creek, Ont. Liberal MP Judy Sgro 74.1%
  14. Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ont. Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree 72.4%
  15. Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont. Liberal MP John McKay 71.2%
  16. Mississauga-Centre, Ont. Liberal MP Omar Alghabra 70.6%
  17. Don Valley North, Ont. Liberal MP Geng Tan 70.4%
  18. Scarborough Centre, Ont. Liberal MP Salma Zahid 69.8%
  19. Vancouver Kingsway, B.C. NDP MP Don Davies 69.7%
  20. Calgary Skyview, Alta. Ind. MP Darshan Kang 69.5%
  21. Fleetwood-Port Kells, B.C. Liberal MP Ken Hardie 68.5%
  22. Burnaby South, B.C. NDP MP Stewart Kennedy 68.5%
  23. Brampton North, Ont. Liberal MP Ruby Sahota 68%
  24. Brampton South, Ont. Liberal MP Sonia Sidhu 66.6%
  25. Willowdale, Ont. Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi 66.5%
  26. Surrey Centre, B.C. Liberal MP Randeep Sarai 65.8%
  27. Mississauga-Erin Mills Liberal MP Iqra Khalid 64.1%
  28. Richmond Hill, Ont. Liberal MP Majid Jowhari 61.6%
  29. Brampton Centre, Ont. Liberal MP Ramesh Sangha 59.8%
  30. Don Valley East, Ont. Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi          58.4%
  31. Ajax, On. Liberal MP Mark Holland 56.7%
  32. Scarborough Southwest, Ont. Liberal MP Bill Blair 56.5%
  33. York South-Weston, Ont. Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen 54.9%
  34. Markham Stouffville, Ont. Liberal MP Jane Philpott 54.9%
  35. Saint-Laurent, Que. Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos 53.4%
  36. Calgary Forest Lawn, Alta. Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai 52.8%
  37. Mississauga-Streetsville, Ont. Liberal MP Gagan Sikhad 52.2%
  38. Winnipeg North, Man. Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux 51.9%
  39. Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Ont. Liberal MP Leona Alleslev 51.7%
  40. New Westminster-Burnaby, B.C. NDP MP Peter Julian 50.8%
  41. Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel, Que. Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio 50%


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