BTC: Random questions of the moment


When will Canadians elect (sorry Kim) a Prime Minister who is not a white guy?

When will a major party choose as its leader someone who is not white?

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BTC: Random questions of the moment

  1. Why are we so culturally insecure that we must look to the United States for inspiration on any and all fronts?

  2. @Jarrid: actually, the UK, Ireland, India, Pakistan, Israel, New Zealand, …

    But to be honest, part of me likes being pushed by the US again, rather than disappointed.

  3. Sorry, to be clear I was focusing on the “guy” not the “white”. I think Canada has a long way to go on that front actually — we’re a lot whiter than the US, especially when relative proportions of population are considered.

  4. Immediately after the Conservative Party chooses a French-Canadian as a leader. (I know, Charest led the PCC when he found himself almost alone in the House, but I would not call this a choice.)

  5. Jarrid- “Why are we so culturally insecure that we must look to the United States for inspiration on any and all fronts?”

    I totally agree although I am surprised it is you who said this. based on some of your past commentary I had read you (perhaps mistakenly) as fairly pro-American.

    On the question at hand I agree with cameron that we are considerably “whiter” than the U.S. and thus it may be a while. I would add that lack of the white vs. black history that has occured in the U.S. means that our cultural narrative is somewhat more open than the U.S.
    In other words, the Americans wouldn’y ask when there will be a “non-white” Prez, they would have asked when there would be a “black” Prez because that is the way their major cultural divide works. For us it is more of a 3 or 4 way race (Black Canadians, South Asian Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians, Asian Canadians) between groups with significant populations and significant historical contributions to the nation. That may cause it to take longer here since it is less of a polarizing issue and consequently may not encourage people to vote in the same way. I think it’ll be the NDP who do it first and unfortunately I don’t think the first attempt will go very well. That would be my predicition.

  6. Why can’t the Liberal Party of Canada attract a contending female candidate for the leadership of the party?

    That is a much more relevant question than the one posed by Aaron.

    Elizabeth May has ruled out joining the Libs in a Hill-Times interview out today. I do think she’s vain and power-hungry enough to bow to a draft-Elizabeth movement though.

    The other woman candidate would be Sheila Copps, who’s mellowed like a fine wine, and who has real leadership potential. I don’t know if she’s ruled it out but if not, why is there no speculation about her possible candidacy?

    I find Martha Hall Findlay pretty non-descript from what I’ve seen so far. She looked every bit the quintessential token female candidate last go round. I know there hasn’t been much fuss about her, but I don’t see why there’s any fuss whatsoever regarding her candidacy.

    The Liberals are of course a classic top-down political party and all the big decisions are made by the backroom boys so maybe that explains it.

  7. Aaron,
    Maybe you have forgotten, but Canadians do not ELECT a Prime Minister at all. Canadians elect an MP/Party. The party picks the leader (as noted above). So the random question should be “when will Canadian political parties choose a non-white male?”

  8. Jarrid poses an interesting question regarding female candidates. I think that we have a double standard for women in politics. I saw it with Lynn Mcleod in Ontario in the 90s and with May (neither of whom I am a big fan of)this time. Female candidates who are stong or speak passionately are painted as overly aggresive or shrill. Mcleod walked all over Harris and Hampton (I think it was Hampton) in the debate, she talked over them and was aggressive. People complained she was rude and overly aggressive. When Harris did the same to McGuinty in the next election’s debate it was put up as a sign that Harris was strong and McGuinty was weak. A total double standard. This makes it difficult for strong female candidates to get traction. I’m sure that many delegates are aware of these problems. Even if you hate that things work this way you have to pick the candidate you expect can win.

  9. It’s not really relevant in the Canadian political context. As for the general underrepresentation of minorities, it’s a combination of political candidates being drawn from the well-off, the anti-urban tilt of riding boundaries and the old boys club that is the Liberal party.

    If you want a Canadian Barack Obama, look at the five dollar bill.

  10. We will have a non-white prime minister when one of the political parties selects a non-white as leader who has voter appeal (good policies, charisma, good character and the ability to attract followers and funding).

    Is skin colour really an issue? I would vote for a person of colour as long as he or she had a conservative outlook and embodied the characteristics listed above.

  11. What a sexist and racist question!

  12. I think Ruby Dhalla might have potential in the future. I like Hall-Findlay but I’m not sure she would be a good leader–she seems too quiet or sedate for the kind of leader the Liberals need.

    I’d give Copps a shot, but I didn’t like her brand of politics when she was a minister, so she’d have to impress me.

  13. When will Party Leaders stop blaming election results they don’t like on one of the parties who honestly contested said election?

    Honestly, where does Elizabeth May get off blaming the NDP because Canadians elected Stephen Harper? The NDP ran a decent campaign and increased their seat count. Were they supposed to do otherwise?

    Does she have even the slightest idea how democracy works?

  14. When will coverage of Canadian politics lose its tokenism issues? Every time a cabinet is put together, the biggest stories are “are there enough women/minorities?”

    Tokenism at its finest. Canadians will elect a non-white guy leader when a qualified individual steps forward. With all due respect to the various female candidates suggested, that hasn’t happened yet.

  15. Have we all overlooked the obvious? The PM is not the official head of state.

    The Governor-General has been black, female, Asian, Ukrainian, Haitian, yadda yadda…

    True, it’s not an elected position, and mostly symbolic, but let’s give credit where credit’s due.

  16. “Tokenism at its finest. Canadians will elect a non-white guy leader when a qualified individual steps forward. With all due respect to the various female candidates suggested, that hasn’t happened yet.”

    This is rather simple and suggests that it is as easy for a non-white, non-male to become head of a party as for a white male. Obviously ths is not a case – it is GETTING to be the case, but it is not yet. Probably in 25 years, we will have more or less equality on this matter.

    To say that in the history of Canada, there has never been a female qualified to be PM? Please…

  17. P.S. – Saying “with all due respect” does not absolve you of the duty to actually show respect. Unless by due respect you mean there is no respect due, therefore you are free to not show any.

  18. Qualifications to lead a Canadian political party include not just the perceived ability to muster the support necessary to get the chance, but also the demonstrated fact of it. The Obaminator has managed to crack the code in his part of the world, so, too, can others here.

    Chris B – a slight quibble. You are technically correct to say Canadians don’t directly elect their PM. However, I beleive there is a consensus out there among observers that the single most important factor behind most voters’ ballots is that it is leader driven.

  19. ^ Which is something of a problem. We have a pseudo-presidential executive branch, where the electoral college also happens to be the legislative branch. It has all become rather strange and unhealthy.

  20. One of the intended outcomes of increased inclusion of grassroots Canadians in party leader selection was that it would be more democratic, more participatory. However, it allows leaders – and this goes for all parties from what I can see – to distance themselves from their caucus members, gain control of party machinery and eventually rule their caucuses instead of their caucuses acting as a moderating influence. Good intentions to be sure, but was the outcome that which was desired?

  21. When one of two things happens — it becomes routine to put people who are not white guys at the power ministries on the front bench, which allows them to build leadership-quality resumes, or if a historical accident happens and a powerful rebel wing of a major party finds itself without a natural candidate, and they have to scramble for one. (That’s how the Tories got Maggie.)

  22. is there a definitive breakdown of the racial makeup of Canada v. The U.S. somewhere that can be linked to easily?

  23. Mike 514 … and don’t forget there was also a GG who was NDP!

  24. “To say that in the history of Canada, there has never been a female qualified to be PM? Please…”

    Well, we’re hardly talking the “history of Canada” though, are we? It was obviously impossible for a woman to hold the role before they had a right to vote, yes? McPhail was the forst female MP, so we’re talking mid-twenties on. To be realistic, looking at Canadian history, we’re probably talking Trudeau on.

    I think if a qualified candidate emerged today, she would be elected. Look at the Liberal field – nobody’s visible. In the history of the Liberal party, the only female candidates to make it to the first ballot of a leadership convention are Sheila Copps and Martha Hall Findlay, and they have some real issues as candidates. On the Conservative side of things, only Belinda Stronach and Kim Campbell spring to mind, and the track record of both is less than stellar.

    “P.S. – Saying “with all due respect” does not absolve you of the duty to actually show respect. Unless by due respect you mean there is no respect due, therefore you are free to not show any.”

    Copps, Findlay, Stronach and Campbell. These are the four female candidates who have run for party leadership. When I say “with all due respect”, it’s because all four have done things deserving of respect. None, however, would ever get my vote for Prime Minister of Canada. In other words, it isn’t necessary to pretend that any of the four was especially qualified.

    Now my actual point, which you ignored, is that I’d rather hear a minister’s qualifications – in other words, I’d much rather hear about Leona Aglukkaq’s track record as a civil servant and MLA in Nunavut than I would that she’s Inuk and a woman. One has a bearing on her competency as a minister, the other doesn’t. I think it’s a shame that Canadian politics isn’t mature enough that we can judge these people on track record rather than gender/race.

  25. The Indo-Canadian community is very active in politics and I believe the first minority party leader will come from that community (I have no evidence to back this up, it is a hunch).

    That being said, I am very concerned that a party like the Liberals will enter another leadership contest without a female front-runner. I would not be surprised if the Tories have a(nother) female leader before the Liberals.

  26. I think someone’s made this point already, and it doesn’t really answer Wherry’s question (which is a fair one), but as an empirical foundation:

    Visible minorities as a percentage of Canada’s population, 2001 census: 13.44%

    Visible minorities as a percentage of the American population, 2006 estimates: 26%.

    That’s not to say that our failure to be led (to date) by a non-male-caucasian is entirely a product of our whiteness; but it is to say that the emergence of a non-male-caucasian leader is significantly less statistically likely.

  27. re: Elizabeth May running for the Liberals.

    Not a chance. Her salary as leader comes from the Green Party. In addition, the taxpayer funded subsidies to political parties allows her to maintain two homes (in Ottawa and in Pictou County), and criss cross the country at her will. She couldn’t afford to be an also-ran in the Liberalpalooza, and she’d have no income during and after the affair (notwithstanding no support outside of David Orchard cultists).

    Some investigative reporter should have a look at her travel expenses and carbon foot print.

    My prediction: She’ll stay on as Green Leader until the next Fed election when, if courted by the new Lib Leader, she’ll abandon ship and run for the Liberals, having obtained maximum personal exposure and benefit from her current role.

  28. Does anyone have stats about non-white representation in the House of Commons?

  29. Eyeballing the unofficial list at the Library of Parliament’s website, I found 18 of 308.

    That underestimates it, of course, because there are undoubtedly people whom I don’t know about & who don’t stand out by name…

    I was actually a bit surprised — I expected visible minorities to be slightly over-represented, not the other way ’round. Maybe I moved too quickly through the list.

  30. I always thought it was cool in Canada that we weren’t obsessive with race like they are down south.

    I don’t care, personally, how long it takes to get a black guy as party leader. No big deal. It’ll happen, or it won’t. Whatever. The point is, you try and vote for the best candidate possible. Once you start voting for ethnicity, you’re in trouble.

    I voted for a black guy in the last Ontario Provincial election. Brampton West had Mark Beckles running for the Progressive Conservatives. Actually, the NDP candidate Garth Bobb was also black. Sanjeev Goel for the Greens was Sikh. And the winner, Vic Dhillon, an ethnic Sikh, was voted in by the Liberal surge that brought Dalton his majority.

    Did I complain I didn’t get a white candidate in Brampton West? I don’t care what the race or sex is. Best candidate for the job. Period. The Liberal and NDP obsession on race and sex is just another reason not to vote for them, until they put those ideas of restorative justice and affirmative action behind them.

    With all the nattering from the Liberals about running a field of 1/3 women this election, the Tories ended up with the most elected women. And no affirmative action policy is in place.

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