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Unusual drop in votes for Conservatives in ‘Chinese’ districts: doubtful interference

TORONTO – Could it be a coincidence that Conservative candidates who had always won big in certain districts were defeated by liberal opponents from a certain point on, despite the decline in support of Justin Trudeau’s party? The question arises spontaneously in light of the case of China’s interference in Canadian politics and of the service published today by the National Post which analyzed the electoral results of some districts in Ontario and British Columbia. 

The districts in question are home to large numbers of Chinese Canadians, and a similar pattern has emerged in all of them: Conservative candidates have seen significantly fewer supporters at the polls, but Liberals have not seen large gains, which would indicate, according to the analysis of the newspaper, that there was no change in political preferences on the part of voters, but that, for some reason, a large number of voters did not vote at all. Let’s see where it happened.

Markham-Unionville, Ontario: Former Conservative MP Bob Saroya won the Toronto suburban seat in 2015 and 2019, painting a lonely island blue in a sea of ​​liberal red across the region. In 2015, Saroya received 24,605 ​​votes, about 3,000 more than his Liberal challenger, winning the seat despite Justin Trudeau’s victory. Saroya held the seat in 2019, receiving just over 26,000 votes. In 2021, however, the surprise: the total number of votes obtained by Saroya decreased by over 7,000 and he lost his seat. The victorious Liberal MP, Paul Chiang, a Pakistani of Chinese origins, campaigned strongly on that occasion garnering almost 22,000 votes, only 1,500 more votes than the previous Liberal candidate, so he actually won thanks to the sharp drop in support in Saroya.

It is also true that Chiang has shown no overt favoritism towards China since he was elected, for example by voting in favor – last month – of a motion condemning China’s government for its treatment of the Uyghur genocide.

In British Columbia, former Conservative MP Alice Wong won the seat for Richmond Center in 2015 by more than 17,000 votes and in 2019 won reappointment by more than 19,000 votes. But in 2021, her vote count dropped nearly 6,000 to 12,668. Another Chinese Canadian, Liberal Wilson Miao, won, despite the fact that the vote in favor of the Liberals increased slightly.

Also in British Columbia, former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost his race in Steveston-Richmond East (to a Liberal candidate not of Chinese descent, in this case: Parm Bains) after 4,400 fewer Conservative supporters voted for him in 2021 than in 2019. Chiu, originally from Hong Kong, exposed a disinformation campaign against him on Chinese social media, including WeChat. In addition, he has always expressed strong criticism against Hong Kong’s crackdown on anti-China protest. So a Chinese unwelcome to China?

According to polling analyst Éric Grenier, who runs the website for The Writ, many factors could explain the drop, starting with overall voter turnout, which fell 5% between 2019 and 2021. But “it’s simply impossible say what” may have actually caused the Conservatives to drop.

Andrew Enns, vice president of the polling company Léger, speaks instead of an “anomaly” and an “unusual trend”, stating that “it is also possible that Chinese Canadians have toughened up with the Conservatives also for the positions of the then party leader Erin O’Toole who was generally in favor of a more aggressive stance on China”.

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