A contentious nomination battle has started in Don Valley North since MP Geng Tan announced that he would not run for the fall re-election. A score of candidates registered to fight for the Liberal Party nominee, with three prominent contenders being Chinese Canadians.
The nomination process is the cornerstone of democracy and governed by the election rules and regulations. However, the process has frequently been identified as potential for abuse, with red flags raised across all political spectrums in both the federal and provincial levels. In 2018, the Globe reported rigged nomination meetings in the provincial elections under PC former leader Patrick Brown. The investigation found that Toronto-area residents posed as local voters at a candidate nomination meeting in Ottawa. And in Hamilton riding, fake identity papers were churned out by printers.
Membership buying appears to be the most widespread practices. Immigrant community members, particularly seniors who don’t speak English, are more likely to be targeted by various membership buying schemes during political campaigns. Chinese News has also received allegations over a variety of campaign schemes where the community members – mostly seniors were offered free membership fees to join the party and then asked to sign the candidate’s nomination paper.
The CityNews reported in 2017 that during a Conservative Party leadership race, a business entity allegedly offered incentives and perks in exchange for supports for a particular candidate. Apart from a refund of $15 membership fee, the offer listed off several benefits the candidate supporters can expect -- free beer, free oil changes, store credit and discounted electrical work and travel. The incentives allegedly targeted at party members from the Chinese community.
It is not the best way to run the campaign, if the boy scout that sold the most cookies, rather than the best and brightest team with the great ideas, sets up to succeed in the nomination race, says Bryon Wilfert, a former Liberal MP for Richmond Hill. However, wowing supporters exclusively from a single ethnic minority group would likely raise eyebrows and may cause suspicions over various unethical campaign schemes.
In the nomination battle in DVN in 2014 between rookie candidate Geng Tan and his rival Rana Sarkar -- a veteran party member, the uniformity of Tan’s membership list, which was composed exclusively of Chinese names, had sparked media scrutiny and a backlash from his rivals. They accused Tan of running a “detrimental version of identity politics,” which was “un-Canadian,” according to the Globe article. Tan denied the allegations.
Undoubtedly, by tapping into the vast ethnic resources in Canada and engaging voters from diverse cultural backgrounds, candidates can best reduce the risks of egregious cases – such as fake members and ineligible voters-- from happening and help ensure a scandal-free nomination race.
“The nomination process is an opportunity for political parties to reach out to all segments of society in order to grow its base, diversify its membership, and engage citizens in the democratic process,” Han Dong, one of the three Chinese Canadian contestants and a former Liberal Ontario MPP, wrote in an email to Chinese News.
“Throughout my political career, I have always strived to run positive and inclusive campaigns, and that is exactly what myself and my team are doing right now in Don Valley North. I am extremely excited to be part of this process,” he added.
Other nomination contestants in the riding contacted by Chinese News have not responded to the requests for comments by press time.
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