Canada 'We’re not having our voices heard or our issues prioritized,' Researchers say diverse candidates disproportionately underfunded

14:41  18 september  2021
14:41  18 september  2021 Source:   ottawacitizen.com

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Voters will be able to choose from an increasingly diverse slate of candidates in this election, but recent data shows women, racialized and Indigenous candidates are still disproportionately underfunded by their own parties, often while running in districts where they already face an uphill battle to win.

a person holding a sign: Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said that until Canadians elect a more diverse, “then we’re not having our voices heard or our issues prioritized.” © Provided by Ottawa Citizen Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said that until Canadians elect a more diverse, “then we’re not having our voices heard or our issues prioritized.”

A team of Carleton University researchers led by Erin Tolley, Canada Research Chair in gender, race and inclusive politics, has collected data from the previous four election cycles, beginning in 2008, showing a distinct upward trajectory in the overall diversity of candidates, but only incremental progress in electing more multicultural Members of Parliament.

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“Parties have caught on, correctly, that Canadians are looking at the candidates and scrutinizing the diversity, and so parties have felt that pressure to show more diversity on the candidate slate,” Tolley said in an interview.

“But often the scrutiny stops there. People have the impression that, if on election day, more women, racialized or Indigenous candidates are not elected to Parliament, then that is simply the voters’ choice. But that conclusion ignores the control that parties have over the placement of these candidates and the level of financial support they are giving to each candidate while they are campaigning.”

Tolley’s research team followed the money and found evidence that, even when parties nominate women, racialized and Indigenous candidates, “they continue to transfer more financial resources to white male candidates, rather than to these candidates that, arguably, would need more party support in order to win their ridings, especially because parties are nominating them in the most difficult ridings to win.

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“So, yes, women, racialized and Indigenous candidates are being nominated more often, but it is a longstanding pattern — and it remains the case — that they are nominated disproportionately in less winnable ridings.”

Party leaders have some control over which candidates will run, but Tolley said those decisions are often left to local riding association executives.

“It’s a relatively unseen feature of democracy in Canada, but these riding association executives — this small cabal of party faithful — really shape the choices that voters ultimately have.”

There are exceptions, however, and the research and data pattern doesn’t align with Huda Mukbil’s experience running as a first-time candidate for the NDP in Ottawa-South.

The NDP’s candidate in 2019, Morgan Gay, made some inroads for the party with 16 per cent of the Ottawa-South vote and had been set to compete for the party’s nomination again this year.

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Mukbil and Gay went through the nomination process. “But, when he and I met and he saw that I was very serious about winning (the Ottawa-South seat), he stepped down,” Mukbil said in an interview.

“He said, ‘I want you to have the opportunity to do this,’ realizing that Ottawa-South has a very diverse population with the largest Arabic-speaking population within all of Ontario and a sizeable Black community and Somali community. With all that diversity, we determined together that I would be the candidate to represent Ottawa-South,” Mukbil said.

“But I know that in other ridings and with other parties, there have been challenges with fundraising. There’s a challenge in the support you can get from the party at the national headquarters level, in terms of which ridings they feel are winnable, and which ridings they feel the need to invest in.”

Federal parties have “heeded the call” to nominate a more diverse set of candidates, Tolley said, “but they haven’t made a lot of progress on addressing the longstanding disparities in the financial support they give to candidates, or in the party’s confidence in women, racialized and Indigenous candidates to actually win.”

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That theory doesn’t apply to the Greens, said Lorraine Rekmans, Green Party candidate for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

“Because we’ve come up from the grassroots and we’ve never had a huge central party to draw funds from,” she explained.

“The Greens are small and mighty. We have small campaigns, we’re never fully funded, but we’re still able to make gains with all the odds stacked against us.”

Rekmans is a mother and grandmother of Anishnabe heritage, a member of the Serpent River First Nation who served as the Green Party’s Indigenous affairs critic for the past 12 years, and last month was elected national party president.

“Our national executive council is very diverse, we’re all representative of minority groups on the council, and I believe I’m the first Indigenous woman to be the president of a national political party in Canada,” Rekmans said.

“So we’ve been making headway. We’ve been advocating for diversity everywhere in this country, and we believe that any system in Canada has to reflect and represent the population that it serves.”

And Canadians are beginning to listen, Rekmans said.

“In previous elections, people may have expressed concern about drinking water quality and housing standards and conflicts between the RCMP and Indigenous people protecting their land — and that did resonate with Canadians — but it was the shock of the unmarked graves that was a wakeup call,” Rekmans said.

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“So, as an Indigenous candidate, I think it’s important for my voice to be at the table to advocate for Indigenous issues, and that is a challenge to me because I am running to be a Member of Parliament, and I understand that constituents want to be represented,” Rekmans said. “So the question becomes: when the constituents look at me as an Indigenous woman, do they feel I can represent them?”

Until Canadians elect a more diverse Parliament, and until there is real representation among the key decision-making roles in government, Mukbil said, “then we’re not having our voices heard or our issues prioritized.”

Mukbil recently participated in Ottawa’s Black candidates debate, where she challenged Hull-Aylmer Liberal candidate Greg Fergus on his government’s record in addressing systemic discrimination.

Fergus, one of seven Black MPs in the House of Commons and co-chair of the Black Parliamentary Caucus, defended his government’s efforts and investments supporting Black and other racialized communities, while outlining further cultural and heritage investments in the party’s 2021 platform during Monday’s debate.

“Justin Trudeau was the first prime minister to acknowledge the existence of systemic anti-Black racism,” Fergus said. “In the last six years, but especially in the last year, we’ve made big steps in recognizing where the government has been weak in providing supports to Black communities, whether that is in the very public issue of entrepreneurship and prosperity, our justice and public security system, whether that’s in terms of representation within government with a good (proportion) of Black people at all levels of the public service, and then the issue of culture and heritage.”

Fergus highlighted early Liberal priorities that have yielded $6.5 billion for mental health, while ensuring the investment is “focused on Black communities, racialized Canadians and Indigenous Canadians and youth — people who should have appropriate mental health responses.”

Fergus also touted the government’s own data-collection efforts, with Statistics Canada tracking disaggregated data since 2018 on vulnerable populations, including immigrants, Indigenous people and visible minority groups.

“It’s a very non-sexy issue, but one that I think has the biggest impact,” Fergus said during the debate. “We need to start asking these questions. How are our policies and programs serving the Black community? And if they’re not, then people will have the data so we can act on it. You can’t change what you can’t measure.”

It’s a start, Mukbil agreed, though a tentative one.

“For years we’ve just been talking about collecting disaggregated data, but what’s the plan once that’s done? We already know that systemic racism is part of all our institutions and yet we have not seen action or substantial changes,” she said.

“But we’re at a time when there’s an awakening, and a conversation about these issues, which wasn’t happening in the past.”



#Elxn44 in Ottawa, the latest: NDP priorities for Ottawa Centre, O'Toole in Kanata–Carleton .
It’s the final week of the 2021 federal election campaign — here’s a rundown of some notable local happenings. Ottawa Centre NDP candidate releases local priorities New Democrat Angella MacEwen has released a 10-point priority list for the riding she’s running to represent in the House of Commons, highlighting NDP platform promises as well as pledges specific to Ottawa Centre. On climate change, for instance, MacEwen outlined the NDP plan to work to set a new, more aggressive target for emissions reductions and to end fossil fuel subsidies.

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This is interesting!