Vancouver Kingsway candidates dance with the ethnic vote

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      On a recent Saturday morning, the NDP candidate for Vancouver Kingsway, Don Davies, sparred with Liberal candidate Wendy Yuan on a Vietnamese radio talk show.

      In the evening that same day, Davies went to a dinner and dance event at the St. Patrick Recreational Hall on Main Street, upon the invitation of one of his Filipino-Canadian supporters. At one point, the Teamsters lawyer danced with Leony Cajigas, a nurse from the Philippines.

      The next day, Davies was scheduled to attend a dim sum party, this time to court Chinese-Canadian voters.

      “There are over 60 languages spoken in Vancouver Kingsway,” Davies told the Straight.

      Of the riding’s 119,815 residents, 42,130 have English as a mother tongue only, according to the 2006 census. Moreover, the riding has a visible-minority population of 81,385, of whom people of Chinese descent number 47,605, and those of Filipino origin 11,930.

      “I really respect and appreciate and like the multicultural fabric of our riding,” Davies said. “That’s why I live in Kingsway. I’m the only candidate who lives here with roots here.”

      Yuan, who came to Canada in 1984, has her own story to tell.

      “I came to this country just like most immigrants with $50 in their pockets and a dream,” Yuan told the Straight. “I came with limited means but through hard work, I got recognized and became a successful businesswoman. I understand what immigrants have to go through to reach what they want.”

      Once an NDP bailiwick, Vancouver Kingsway has gone Liberal in recent elections. Its current MP, David Emerson, was elected a Liberal but crossed the floor to the Conservative side days after the 2006 vote.

      Doug Warkentin, who is running for the Green Party of Canada in Vancouver Kingsway, acknowledged that the ethnic vote has been traditionally one of the areas that his party has a hard time cracking into.

      A resident for the past three years in the riding, Warkentin, an engineer, hopes that his personal connections to small business owners that are mostly of immigrant extraction could win him a number of votes.

      “Beyond that, just being the Green party candidate, I think anyone who’s interested in the future of Canada, it’s in their interest to support the kind of things that were supporting as well,” Warkentin told the Straight.

      The Straight wasn’t able to get a comment from Conservative candidate Salomon Rayek. In a phone conversation on September 19, one of his staff members said the Mexican-born politician “isn’t available for media interviews at this point”.

      On October 16, 2007, the Globe and Mail reported on the details of a Conservative operation to target select ethnic and religious groups across Canada to get their votes.

      “With their struggles to win seats in Canada’s three biggest cities in 2004 and 2006, Conservatives are convinced that the support of new Canadians is crucial in taking over a number of urban ridings that are currently in Liberal hands,” the paper reported.

      The report also cited a document that stated that there is “growing anecdotal evidence that New Canadian values are more aligned with the values of the Conservative Party of Canada”.

      But this last point, according to UBC political scientist Fred Cutler, is overemphasized.

      “Immigrants aren’t any further conservative on social issues nor are they more spread out in their opinions,” Cutler told the Straight in a phone interview. “There’s variation among immigrants, and there’s variation among nonimmigrants all the way from left to right or Liberal to Conservative or whatever you want to call it.”

      Cutler added, “There are just as many Conservative Canadians who are conservative because they are older or they were brought up in a time where values were different or both. And so, it’s a dangerous simplification to think that new Canadians are social conservative in general.”