Omar Ha-Redeye will be provided coverage of the 2013 Leadership Convention as an accredited blogger.
Omar Ha-Redeye will be provided coverage of the 2013 Leadership Convention as an accredited blogger.
It took them some time. In fact quite a bit of time. But eventually members of the Wynne camp addressed my concerns about the “ethnic” voting strategy. An apology was issued to those who received the messages, and I personally observed it being sent.
Although nearly every member of the Wynne camp was sympathetic, nobody was able to actually execute action. Mistakes happen. I get it. I like to have them fixed. I like to think emphasizing this issue will highlight to the party the importance of developing effective and accurate communication strategies.
The Premier’s Office has done an excellent job in the past 9 years in building close ties with visible minority communities to help address their unique needs and concerns and building a collaborative relationship with them. Let’s hope the next leader will maintain a vibrant and talented community relations staff to continue this good work.
After the conclusion of the first ballot Dr. Eric Hoskins joined the Wynne camp. Although I attended the convention as an independent media observer, I was selected and had the option to stand as an alternate for Hoskins in Beaches-East York. I know Hoskins from when I lived in St. Paul’s and was involved in the riding association, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him. When he joined Wynne I did not automatically join with him because I’m not formally part of the camp, but it did open up conversations with the Wynne team. To be fair, I spent quite a bit of time talking to Pupatello delegates as well.
Hoskins may have been last on the ballot, and the first out in this race. But he’s a Member that I deeply respect, given his background in clinical health and provision of services in developing countries. One of my pre-law backgrounds was in emergency management and disaster management, so I know how difficult relief work can be. I also know that people who enter this area and actually spend time in the field are not interested in power or padding their resume. They have a level of altruism that we probably need a lot more of in Ontario politics.
Wynne will recall the legislature by Feb. 19, which has been a sticking point for many members of the public. The party needs to preserve this relationship. We do not want to use prorogation for political purposes the way some claim the Federal government has done in recent years.
Wynne’s credentials have always been strong. Resolving this issue allows me to offer my support. But some of her credentials are especially important in resolving what is the most immediate and pressing issue facing the party. There are currently thousands of protesters (estimated 15,000 by the police, and growing) encircling Maple Leaf Gardens, and they are angry.
Wynne has experience as a public school trustee, fighting the cuts to education by Mike Harris. She has been a Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education (who was incidentally Gerrard Kennedy), and was Ontario’s Minister of Education from 2006-2010. During this time she created the Minister’s Student Advisory Council, which seeks input from 60 students from Grades 7-12 to improve our school’s system.
Certainly a Minister capable of developing creative solutions to foster student input can presumably do the same for fostering discussions with teachers.
Considering my last post about the Kathleen Wynne campaign, you would think Harinder Takhar would be my man. He is, after all, the only visible minority out of any of the leadership contenders.
Most of the accusations against him recently are either irrelevant or unfair. I don’t care much for the critiques of how his personal business was run, or if he came to Canada with $7 or $700,000. What I do care about is what all his detractors are saying about him.
Most were surprised he even did this well, entering the convention with 13% of the delegates, more than Hoskins or Sousa, both extremely promising MPs who were expect to fare quite well. Perhaps you could say that we can expect the unexpected from Takhar. And that’s a good thing.
If hospitality suites are any indication, the Takhar camp by far surpassed every single candidate last night. While some wrapped up by 11 p.m., the Takhar party at Mick E Flynns went all the way to 3:30 a.m.
They’re criticizing him for relying heavily on the South Asian community to produce these delegates. There are accusations of people being bussed in, and minorities in cultural garb who don’t speak English flooding the ballots. They’re basically criticizing him for being able to get people to come out.
The Takhar camp has responded by saying that other leadership candidates are not considerably different. Sousa has drawn heavily on Toronto’s Portuguese community, and Puppatello on the Italian. And that is where the Takhar camp has quite a bit of merit. A quick snapshot of the delegates today demonstrate that his supporters are actually a broad cross-section of people, despite including some minorities. Delegates wearing Takhar pins and those attending his hospitality suite last night are decidedly a substantial cross-section of Canadian society, and not any one ethnic community.
A closer examination of the leadership delegate results does reveal some anomalies. Takhar received nearly half the votes in some ridings like Bramalea—Gore—Malton, Brampton—Springdale and Mississauga—Brampton South as expected. But the interesting numbers are ridings like Dufferin—Caledon, Kitchener—Conestoga, Oshawa and Niagara West—Glanbrook (Hudak’s riding). These are conservative ridings, but Takhar has a disproportionate show in all of these, which added substantially to his delegate count.
In one sense this is a great thing. We can draw on Liberal support in some of the staunchest Conservative ridings. On the other hand, other leadership candidates probably didn’t focus as much on these ridings where less members are present. However, Federal ridings in Ontario have gone predominantly Conservative, and the municipal elections in Toronto have also gone for a right-leaning mayor. Ontario Liberals need to be concerned about holding existing Liberal ridings, and prevent losing them to the Conservatives and NDP.
Supporters among small populations of Liberals in Conservative ridings will not give us that. We need a leader who has strong Liberal support, in Liberal ridings.
Takhar’s significant delegate contingency can easily be a game changer today. Whoever Takhar does end up backing will be sure to appreciate Takhar’s outreach strategies.
Takhar’s ability to reach visible minorities is only a positive thing. We need a dozen more Takhars in the party doing the same thing. But we need a Premier who can lead all Ontarians, not just certain communities. Although I’d love to see Ontario’s first visible minority Premier, Takhar is no Barack Obama.
I’ve always been a big fan of Kathleen Wynne. She’s a progressive and talented MPP who I’ve known for years. She’s a highly competent Minister, and a natural leader.
But she’s not ready to be Premier. At least not with her current campaign staff.
What I’m referring to is a minor gaffe during the week before the convention. Lisa Kirby of the Daisy Consulting Group provides the background:
This week, some Liberal party members received one letter in particular that has some people very upset. This letter was translated into different languages based on a kind of assumed ethnicity based on the member’s name. Yes, name.
Remember back when the Harper Cons sent Rosh Hashanah messages to Jewish Canadians? People were outraged. What the Wynne campaign has done this week is similar, and it has offended a number of Liberal party members.
Young Liberal, Tahiya Bakht received a letter in Punjabi. She is Bangledeshi but an assumption was made that she was Indian or Pakistani based on her name… Hani El Masry received a letter from the Wynne campaign identifying him as Muslim and was then added to an email list serv for “Muslim delegates for Wynne”. Hani is Arab, but not Muslim.
Never mind that up to 20% of Egypt’s population is Orthodox Christian, one of the oldest churches in the entire world. Hani is an extremely common Egyptian name, and “El Masry” literally means “the Egyptian” in Arabic. Or that there are more languages in India than I can count, and Punjabi is hardly the default for the majority (Bakht assumed the script was actually Hindi, that’s how little she related to the message sent to her).
What this minor gaffe demonstrates is a major flaw in strategy and competency by the Wynne team. “Politics is about people — it’s about relationships,” said Wynne. And she’s right, except you have to know people before you can have relationships with them.
Wynne’s home riding is Don Valley West, which has the highest percentage of Muslim population in Canada. So perhaps her mistake with El Masry was somewhat justified. Conversely, it could be argued that she has failed to make it a priority.
I know her riding well, having spent most of my childhood here. Except I grew up in the northern part of her riding, not the ethnically diverse immigrant communities in the south. The demographics in my part of her riding were primarily white and Ashkenazi Jewish. If I still lived there today I would be very curious to see how the Wynne campaign would profile me based on my Arabic-sounding (but actually Hebrew) name, in a predominantly white neighbourhood where our primary language was – shocker – English.
What is most upsetting is that Wynne was supposed to be one of the leadership candidates with the most support from diverse communities, based on her long history of working closely with them in her riding. Somehow that got blurred during leadership.
Why is this important? Because the Liberal Party of Canada in lost the 2011 Federal election in no small part because they have alienated visible minorities, largely due to tokenism and the broad use of cultural generalizations. It sounds like a grand claim, but simply look at the maps of the 2008 and 2011 elections in the GTA and consider the large percentage of minorities present:
For the record I will note that I believe the Conservative Party of Canada is even worse at treating visible minorities with tokenism. Yet the Conservatives have affirmed what Liberals still have difficulty believing – visible minorities make a difference in Canadian elections. They will have an even more important role in the years to come. Visible minorities can reduce majority governments to minorities, and even turn the tides entirely, just as the Idle No More movement currently demonstrates the potential of First Nations populations to have a dramatic impact on Canadian elections.
The even bigger problem than wooing for which party visible minorities should vote for is getting many to vote at all. Low voter turnout is endemic to all Canadians, including these populations. Treating them like an stereotypical ethnic playing card is certainly not going to help with voter turnout at all.
Diverse communities are themselves internally diverse. And visible minorities who are 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation (yes, they exist) very rarely speak a language other than English/French. The Ontario Liberal Party will have to wake up to this reality. This is a warning sign of the worst kind.
It’s a problem that is bigger than the specific tactic. It’s a problem of engagement, and a failure to incorporate our diverse populations into our leadership structures (The OLP president notwithstanding – but he’s a great start).
Big City Lib adds the following points:
I should say that I originally had my doubts about the provenance of these letters–whether they actually came from the Wynne campaign. So I emailed this morning and have as yet received no reply. Certainly the address on the first letter is one of the ones given out on her website.
Unless the Wynne campaign clarifies this immediately, or issues an apology to delegates demonstrating the need for greater cultural competency moving forward, I’ll have to express my formal reluctance in having her lead the Ontario Liberal Party. This is just not a winning strategy.