When Liberal inclusiveness meets home-country conflict

Similar to the mainstream media, the race of the two giants, the Liberals and the Conservatives, is what catches the ethnic media’s attention. Out of the over six hundred stories related to the upcoming federal elections MIREMS identified in the ethnic media over the month of August, over half were about the Liberals and Prime Minister Trudeau.

Almost half of those stories (152) were from the Chinese media, followed closely by the South Asian media with 131 stories. This reflects the fact that these two population groups are the largest ethnic communities in Canada, with the most developed local media including daily radio and TV programs and daily papers. They are also politically engaged communities, fielding numerous candidates and actively participating in local dialogue and voting.

Much of the coverage centred around similar items as in the mainstream media: the latest poll results, candidates, slogans, advertising and fundraising. Liberal positions on the major issues like climate change, affordability, infrastructure, etc. got relatively limited coverage, although government funding announcements were covered. A particular focus across languages and ethnicities was the SNC Lavalin affair, with the release of the Ethics Commissioners report, Trudeau’s response and the observation that the report had little effect on the polls. Premiers Kenney and Ford were mentioned, with Kenney campaigning against the Liberals and Trudeau highlighting Ford’s unpopular funding cuts in association with the federal Conservatives’ expected policies.

“The ethnic media have, however, additional areas of interest in comparison to the mainstream media. An obvious one is the area of immigration.”

The majority of the coverage here related to complaints mostly in the Chinese media over how the Syrian refugees admitted when Trudeau first came to power are now gaining citizenship and therefore voting rights. Other reports, including an interview with Immigration Minister Hussen on OMNI BC TV Mandarin, emphasized that the Liberals will continue promoting immigration and multiculturalism (Vancouver, 2 August 2019).

Additional focal points are the relationship of any given ethnic community to the party. The daily Italian paper Corriere Canadese cited NDP Candidate Maria Augimeri as describing the Trudeau government as disappointing due to the lack of a significant Italian presence in his administration and its insensitivity to the immigration of Italians (Toronto, 1 August 2019). The South Asian English Darpan Magazine endorsed Black Vote Canada’s call for more Black candidates in winnable ridings (Vancouver, 16 August 2019). The Polish newspaper Puls published a two-page interview with the Polish-Canadian Conservative candidate Ted Opitz, who said that Trudeau does not represent Polish values because he once commented he admired the Chinese dictatorship (Mississauga, 16 August 2019).

Numerous Punjabi media including the daily paper Canadian Punjabi Post returned attention to Trudeau’s ill-fated trip to India with a report on a book to be released about the misadventure and pointers to Gerald Butts’ claim that the Indian government tried to “screw the Liberals” to help their Conservative rivals because of a perception that the Liberals tolerate Khalistani pro-independence activism (Toronto, 2 August 2019). Channel Y South Asian 360 Punjabi TV held a panel discussion on the book; panel members considered the India trip a failure but said it was absurd to blame the India government (Toronto, 2 August 2019).

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-india-spending-scheer-1.4829121, Sep 18, 2018

Foreign policy made up nine percent of the captured coverage, and half of the stories were about the Liberal government’s relationship to China.

Party positions on homeland matters and the relationship of homeland governments to a party are often areas of interest in the ethnic media. Concerns were raised about the Liberals not being tough enough on China, Huawei’s involvement in Canada’s 5G network, former ambassador McCallum calling on China to be more accommodating towards the Liberal government to avoid a Conservative election victory and government responses to the protests in Hong Kong. Conservative candidates held a roundtable with Chinese media to criticize the Liberals’ inability to get Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor released, which was covered by Chinese media including the national daily Sing Tao (Vancouver, 8 August 2019). The daily Chinese websites 51.ca in Toronto and BCbay.com in Vancouver wondered whether Trudeau has the time, ability and motivation to meet the demands of Hong Kongers in Halifax to help Hong Kong protesters (18 August 2019). Meanwhile, the daily Chinese newscast on Talent Vision Canada reported that Liberal membership forms were distributed at a pro-Beijing rally in Toronto, although a Liberal spokesman said the forms were old forms not currently valid (Toronto, 23 August 2019).

Keeping an eye on the ethnic media can be invaluable in identifying and counter-acting these very specific angles and responses from specific ethnic communities to government or candidate announcements and positions.

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