The Conservative party could have done a better job reaching out to Richmond’s Chinese Canadians in this year’s federal election, according to one party insider.
A recent study from the Canadian Chinese Affairs Committee found Chinese Canadians overwhelmingly voted for the Conservatives in previous federal elections, yet the party was completely wiped out this year in Richmond where the Liberal’s Wilson Miao and Parm Bains respectively took down the Tory incumbents (pictured right) Alice Wong in Richmond Centre and Kenny Chiu in Steveston-Richmond East.
The losses have some questioning what went wrong for the Tories in Richmond — particularly given the party’s national vote was not much lower than it was in the last election, yet Wong was down about 15 per cent.
Richmondite Tung Chan, a former Vancouver city councillor and former member of Richmond Centre’s Conservative riding association, said the party should have paid more attention to a misinformation issue.
“For example, one of the party’s slogans was that we are against the Government of China and the Chinese Communist Party, but not against Chinese people. But that slogan lacks details and left many community members unclear exactly how the party felt about Chinese Canadians,” said Chan, adding that “racism wasn’t even mentioned in the party’s platform.”
Entrepreneur Amy Huang, who recently moved from Vancouver to Richmond is an example of Chan’s point.
Huang said she was concerned that the Conservative’s tough stance on China may fuel racism in Canada. While the party’s slogan aims to distinguish the Chinese government from Chinese people, Huang believes the two can be confused.
“When Chinese Canadians walk down the streets, we all look similar and we can’t put stickers on our faces saying we are Canadians, please don’t attack me,” said Huang.
“I am just worried that my children and friends might be the potential targets of racist attacks when this kind of message is circulated again and again.
“For me, the Conservatives’ voices aren’t powerful enough when it comes to issues like racism.
Chan also notes the Conservatives did too little to reach out to the community via Chinese-language media, saying that “even the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) did more posting on WeChat accounts and hosting of community events than the Conservatives.
“The Liberals and the NDP understand that to win, they have to gain support from the minority-majority communities (ridings where people of colour make up the majority.) But that notion isn’t yet in the Conservatives’ DNA. The Conservatives need to promote or talk to people who truly understand the Chinese Canadian community — and listen to them.”
In contrast, the Liberals did a great job of reaching out to the local community, said Chan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s quick campaign stop on the Steveston docks on Aug. 25, where he engaged with spectators and locals, was an example, said Chan.
These efforts made voters feel important and appreciated. The federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole did deliver a speech at the Richmond Chamber of Commerce in July this year, but he could have done more by immersing himself in the community, Chan added.
“These factors combined together might’ve put Kenny Chiu in a vulnerable position,” he said.
Access Pro Bono project and information officer Jimmy Yan, a commenter with Fairchild Radio, said learning the Chinese language and facilitating communications with key Chinese Canadian members could also be another efficient tool to help the party regain trust and support.
“Language is the medium of communication,” said Yan.
“Ideally, if all residents in Canada could speak fluent English or French, they could have a less divisive but more peaceful society. But that’s not the case... It’s critical for immigrants to learn the official languages, but Anglophones or Francophones may also benefit from studying foreign languages. The efforts to bridge the gap can be mutual to maximize the utility of quality communication.”