Election campaigns provide an excellent opportunity for issues affecting immigrants to receive attention by public officials and the media. With a provincial election arriving in Quebec on the 26th of March and a federal election likely looming, the coming months should provide an open forum to discuss the issues and interests of immigrants in Canada.
As a nation built on immigration, Canadian politics have always provided an arena to discuss issues of immigration and settlement. While only Canadian citizens may vote in Canadian elections, the forum for discussion remains open to all. As politicians vie for votes in immigrant communities, they engage issues facing these communities, sometimes leading to innovative policy suggestions. In Toronto’s municipal election campaign in the fall of 2006, Mayor David Miller suggested that Permanent Residents be extended the right to vote in municipal elections – a possibility currently being studied by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
The Province of Quebec will be going to the polls on Monday March 26 th to elect a new provincial government. In a heated three-way race, the competition for votes is good news for immigrants, whose communities and votes (for those who are now Canadian citizens) will be courted by politicians. With approximately 45,000 new Canadian Permanent Residents making their homes in Quebec every year, immigrants are an important constituency deciding the makeup of the next government in Quebec. Under the Canada-Quebec Immigration Agreement, Quebec is able to establish its own requirements to select those who wish to immigrate to Quebec.
While no official date is in place for the next federal election, observers expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a new election in the coming months. The current minority government formed by the Conservative Party of Canada has been in power since January of 2006. With evidence abound of preparations for a campaign to win an expected summer election, politicians from each of the major parties are seeking to make in-roads with immigrant communities, listening to their concerns and readying to respond with new election platforms. As Ontario, the destination for over half of new Permanent Residents, goes to the polls in October of this year, we can expect immigrant issues to gain significant attention in the public eye in 2007.