Multicultural politics has eroded Canada’s traditional sense of itself, writes Salim Mansur, and the Liberals are part of the problem
IN THE political kingdom of the federal Liberals, the ever predictable Ontario voters have turned unpredictable.
It may yet be early to take for granted such volatility extending to the final outcome of the June 28 election.
Yet it has shaken the Liberal party’s belief in its right to govern Canada by winning just about every Ontario riding — amounting to one-third of the seats in Parliament.
Those who had become resigned to the idea of the country being dominated by one party may now find hope in a reunited Conservative party renewing Canadian democracy.
It will be a mistake, however, to view the volatility among Ontario voters as an indication of some fundamental realignment of national politics.
Any swing away from the Liberal party in Ontario producing a minority government in Ottawa will be brought about by a small portion of independent voters having an influence greater than their numbers warrant.
This outcome will be welcome, but it should not be overblown.
Any substantive improvement of Canadian democracy rests with the Conservative party’s effort to become a credible alternative to the Liberal party, and not just when Liberals are wounded by scandals, as they were in 1984 and are now, 20 years later.
For such a positive development in Canadian democracy as an end to one-party electoral dominance, Ontario holds the key.
But voting patterns in a democracy, a subject of much academic study, are set by the electorate over time and any change is also brought about over time.
The elephant in the room no one wants to talk about in Canadian politics, particularly in reference to Ontario, is the voting pattern of new or “ethnic” Canadians of non-European origin.
This marginal slice of the vote in urban centres is of decisive importance in close elections, and goes predominantly Liberal.
As a new Canadian, I experienced during the past three decades just about the entire spectrum of an immigrant’s struggle — from being a street vendor and a cab driver in Toronto to being a Canadian Alliance candidate in the federal election of 2000 — to succeed in the country I made my home.
I write from experience, as an observer of Canadian politics to being a participant in it, of how greatly corrupted our national politics has become in the organized pursuit of buying “ethnic” votes.
In a normal democratic process there would be no identifiable ethnic votes, since all of the electorate would consider it an insult for any part of it to be defined separately on the basis of some exceptional identity, be it religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
The challenge for an immigrant society such as Canada remains how to construct a balance between assimilation and respect for differences.
But when, as a result of historical changes, there is no longer a consensus on what constitutes the core identity of a society, assimilation as a political process then falls by the wayside and politics of the lowest common denominator assumes a virtue in which demagogues thrive.
Multicultural politics, the code word for buying ethnic votes, has eroded Canada’s traditional sense of itself, its history of sacrifices in building a model of an open, inclusive and caring society, and its relations with traditional allies in the common defence of freedom and democracy.
Extortion of savings
Multicultural politics, without adding anything of substantive value, has become paradoxically a substitute for citizenship without responsibility. At its worst, it is an extortion of savings from those who built Canada for those who want its benefits without any investment.
Any renewal of Canadian democracy will require from Conservatives, since Liberals are part of the problem, a distancing from multicultural politics and the demagogy that surrounds it.
It will mean constructing a new electoral majority that takes pride from, and makes investment in, the history and values that made Canada once so widely respected around the world.