Jenny Kwan vs. Mable Elmore rumble for NDP nomination highlights ethnic politicking

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The Jenny Kwan-Mable Elmore battle for the federal NDP nomination in Vancouver East can be explored in a number of ways.

      One is through its ethnic dimension, a subject that is of great interest to Raj Hundal, a key New Democrat organizer with deep roots in the South Asian community.

      Kwan and Elmore are identified with two big ethnic communities—the Chinese and Filipino, respectively—and under different circumstances, it might be beneficial for the NDP to have the two in the House of Commons.

      As Hundal put it in a phone interview today (January 29) with the Straight, “Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP would be very gladly welcoming both a Chinese Canadian member of Parliament or a Filipino Canadian member of Parliament to the table.”

      Especially with former Trinity-Spadina NDP MP Olivia Chow no longer sitting in the House of Commons, Hundal said the party “would look at bringing, hopefully, Jenny Kwan on board”.

      But “from the same side, you know,” Hundal went on, “the party does not have a Filipino member of Parliament either”, hence Elmore would be perfect.

      “So it would advantageous to have both but unfortunately with the nomination battle there, only one will succeed,” he said.

      “But either way,” Hundal continued, “I think it bodes well for the federal NDP in selecting either Kwan or Elmore as their candidate”.

      The ethnic aspect of the Kwan-Elmore contest also has ramifications at the provincial level.

      Kwan, who is the B.C. NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, is the only member of the provincial party’s legislative caucus who is of Chinese descent.

      Elmore is MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, and her first election in 2009 represented a breakthrough for someone of Filipino ancestry in B.C., making her a darling for many in the community.

      With the two wanting to jump to the federal scene, that likely means that the B.C. NDP is sure to lose either a Chinese or Filipino MLA from its caucus.

      (Scott McLean, SFU’s director of media and community relations, is also seeking the federal NDP nomination in Vancouver East.)

      According to Hundal, it would be “important strategically” for the provincial NDP to “encourage” someone of Chinese or Filipino ancestry to consider running in either of Kwan’s or Elmore’s constituency later on.

      Hundal didn’t mention any names.

      Gabriel Yiu may be one. Yiu has run unsuccessfully for the B.C. NDP, and he’s known as a Kwan loyalist. Yiu may consider Kwan’s Vancouver-Mount Pleasant constituency if Kwan goes on to become MP.

      For her part, Elmore has taken under her wing a number of mostly young and aspiring Filipino Canadian politicians. They may want to take a crack at Vancouver-Kensington if Elmore goes federal.

      The federal election will take place sometime this year. The Kwan-Elmore nomination race will trigger a provincial byelection for either of their B.C. legislative seats.

      Hundal didn’t give any indication which side he’s cheering for.

      Both Elmore and Hundal are identified with ex-B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix. They are said to have delivered substantial votes from their respective ethnic communities in the successful 2011 party leadership campaign of Dix.

      Kwan supported Mike Farnworth against Dix in the NDP leadership contest. She was also part of a faction that forced Carole James to step down as B.C. NDP leader. James is an ally to both her successor, Dix, and Dix’s replacement and current leader, John Horgan.



      On the surface

      Jan 29, 2015 at 1:54pm

      It is highly frustrating to read that ethnicity and race becomes such a weighty consideration in candidate selection. The very idea that Kwan can "replace" Olivia Chow merely by virtue of being Chinese is so reductive as to be insulting. Just as a female writer is able to conceive and create male characters, just as a caucasian painter is able to master asian stylistics, so can anyone with sensible humanistic values represent a mixed-race community.

      Focus on the important stuff, not petty distinctions of ethnic influence. Sheesh.


      Jan 29, 2015 at 2:14pm

      why aren't Irish people ever called "Irish Canadians"?

      @On the surface

      Jan 29, 2015 at 2:52pm

      Welcome to 2015 where those in the know realize elections are public relations exercises. The demographic you think is massive, the "we are reasonable people who want effective representatives" demographic is very, very tiny. The much larger demographics are people who "want representatives who look and act like us!" You can win an election without the former demographic, but you cannot win without the latter in some form.


      Jan 29, 2015 at 4:15pm


      Yes yes, of course, merit.

      However, there is something to be said for diversity. If you were to look at any party and see that it was ALL one ethnicity, you might get a funny feeling from that, right?

      Appearance matters. We don't just vote for smarts, we also vote for soft metrics like presence, command authority and whatnot.

      Political jobs are not knowledge-tested - if they were, brilliant political scientist Michael Ignatiev would have been an amazing political leader.

      And, getting back to merit, another ingredient in being appealing to a certain demographic is not just the sense that the politician LOOKS like a certain ethnicity, but that the politician can UNDERSTAND a certain ethnicity.

      Like, I'm a "minority." Pretty "white" culturally but there's still some things that were different in my upbringing and that don't have to be discussed, explained away, or measured for when talking to people of the same "minority."

      In short, you don't know what you don't know.

      Getting ethnic vote worked for Wai Young

      Jan 30, 2015 at 2:00am

      She made virtually no major media appearances, and has been silent on <b>all</b> the major issues. More like Ottawa's representative in Vancouver than the other way around.

      Weekly propaganda mail-outs though; keeps the printing businesses busy.

      But she did make a campaign appearance on "ethnic" TV, next to her mom (who cried on queue) in front of a wall full of "family values" framed family photos, with a party lawyer also on hand to ensure nothing embarrassing got published.

      The entire pathetic event should have been embarrassing. But not to those without shame it seems.


      Jan 30, 2015 at 7:35am

      It's a tremendous relief to find out that voting according to one's race is okay, and even encouraged. I'm white and I don't believe either a Filipino or Chinese person is going to understand my cultural needs. I'm going to vote 'white' from now on, and with a clear conscience.


      Jan 30, 2015 at 8:34am

      "We don't just vote for smarts, we also vote for soft metrics like presence, command authority and whatnot."

      When I vote, it tends to be on the basis of the policies of the party, because that is pretty much enforced lock-step by the people who handle political types. I think all you are doing is demonstrating how you are part of the demographic outlined above, the irrational one that can be manipulated by PR.

      "different in my upbringing"

      Oh, OK. You want someone who had the same cultural experiences as you as a young person. When people from the UK talk like this, they are called "racist."

      "I'm not racist, I just want someone who can relate to the childhood I had, where I grew up around mostly white people."

      "I'm not racist, I just want someone who can relate to the childhood I had, where I grew up in the XYZ ethnic community."

      Why do we tolerate one, not the other? I say we shouldn't tolerate either, but if we are going to have this ethnic PR politicking, it should at least be opened up to the people who, you know, saved the world via WWII, etc.

      Tommy Khang

      Jan 30, 2015 at 8:47am

      Why can't in a multicultural society such as Canada can't politics be colourblind? Honestly, why do we care what race a candidate is - does this imply that they are somehow more qualified or adept as a politician? One can only hope that the most qualified person becomes the chosen candidate instead of one picked based on how their race will play in the riding, unfortunately I don't see this being the case in this particular riding.

      SPY vs SPY

      Jan 30, 2015 at 9:43am

      12 YEAR OLDS IN GRADE 6 & 7 - WILL RULE THE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Yes my Frendos - His High Holyness - The Grad Poobah of The Left - Monsiour El Presidente Mulcare - Leader of De Federal NDP - has allowed all Provincial NDP to have their own rules for NDP Federal Candidate Elections. So BC NDP'ers went NUTS!!

      So Children who still need to be tucked int bed at night - have their clothes picked out for them every morning and Boys who are terrified of Girls and Girls who think that Boys are Yucky and Smelly - Will be able to vote.

      From what I have heard Ms Mable Elmore is leading in the "Gee I wonder what My Mom packed in my Lunch Today" crowd

      Quell Stupidity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Ms Elmore's Campaign Promise to these Leading Lights of Democracy - A Private Members Bills to have their Allowance Doubled - No Joke - she has Promised This!!

      ursa minor

      Jan 30, 2015 at 1:23pm

      Given the number of times the Peoples Liberation Army sycophants embedded in the local Chinese-Language media have tagged Kwan with the "banana" label for turning her back on enslaved capitalism, it's hard for some of us to regard her as the "Chinese" candidate. Jenny is far more East Van than she is Hong Kong.