Canada elections and role of Indian voters

Wednesday 11th September 2019 06:36 EDT

Dear Readers,

The wind is shifting in Canada as national elections are on the horizon. Canadian elections are, how do I put it, not as "colourful" as Indian elections. They are not as eventful and reflects a certain quiet sophistication that I for one, am not used to. Dates for the federal elections are set for October 21 and with the day closing in, news channels are rife with 2019 federal leaders’ debates. The main party leaders who were extended invitations to speak at the debates are Liberal leader and incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Behind several communities, Canada contains the world's tenth largest Indian diaspora. The largest group of Indo-Canadians are those of Punjabi origin, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the diaspora. The Indian community comprise of 4 per cent of the entire population of the country. I point this out in context to the impact Indo-Canadians have on the future government of the Great North.

Political participation is the foundation of Democracy and voting is the most vital tool to measure said participation. Voter turnout rate in 2015 stood at 68.3 per cent in Canada. Not as impressive as it could have been, the poor level of awareness can be pinned at what you call, generational effect. The young do not participate as much in casting the ballot as the old. Meanwhile, at the elite level, immigrants and minorities have expanded their presence among the ranks of candidates and MPs.

I find it important to point out that the Canadian government only re-enfranchised the Indo-Canadian community with the right to vote in 1947. A poll taken earlier this year revealed that if the Liberals win this year, immigrants could have played an important factor in the victory. While among voters born in Canada, the Conservatives led the Liberals by merely two points, but among voters born outside the country, the Liberals hold a 16 point lead.

The poll also suggested that there is not a lot of difference between how the two demographics view immigration. The number of Indians landing in Canada as permanent residents stand at over 69,000 per year as of 2018. The number is staggering when you come to terms with the fact that in five years, most of them, if not all, will file for citizenship and the circle of immigration and Canada elections will go round again.

The Jagmeet Singh Effect

Not just Indian voters, there is a federal election candidate who has been turning the wave in his favour. Leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh certainly has his own personal appeal. He has in all possibilities, the potential to upset the otherwise race that was only contested between the Liberals and Conservatives. Constituencies or "ridings" as they are called here, with significant Indo-Canadian populations moved over to the Liberal column in a big way in 2015. If voters in these areas sense that the wind is blowing in the Conservatives' direction, they could swing back again.

However, the first Indo-Canadian leader of a major national party, Singh brings a whole new level of uncertainty to the picture.

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