Federal Election 2006

By Ed Corrigan

Published in Arab 2000, February 2006

When the smoke from the Jan. 23 election cleared Stephen Harper's Conservatives had defeated Paul Martin's minority Liberal government. Immediately afterwards, Martin announced his resignation as Prime Minister and party leader. Despite being hammered by the Sponsorship Scandal and a series of campaign gaffes, the Liberals still managed to elect 103 Members of Parliament (MPs) down 30 from the 2004 election.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives elected 124 MPs., up 26, and enough to form a minority government. The Bloc Québécois elected 51 MPs down from 54. Jack Layton's New Democratic Party increased their seats from 19 to 29, including a breakthrough victory in London-Fanshawe for Irene Mathyssen. One independent, Quebec City popular shock radio show host André Arthur, was elected in Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier.

In all, 14,815,680 ballots were cast out of an eligible electorate of 22,812,683��a 64.9% turnout. The Conservatives took 36.3% of the popular vote; the Liberals, 30.2%; the NDP, 17.5%; the Bloc, 10.5%; and the Green Party, 4.5%.

Green candidates contested all 308 ridings and earned 665,940 votes nationwide, for a popular vote increase of 0.2% over 2004; however, none managed to be elected under our first-past-the-post electoral system. Nevertheless, the fact that the party easily passed the 2-per-cent threshold to be eligible for federal election financing of $1.79 per vote shows that environmental issues are important to many Canadians.

The Conservatives earned 36.3% of the popular vote despite being shut out of the major urban centres of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; however, they made a surprising breakthrough in Quebec winning 10 seats at the expense of the Bloc, which picked up some seats from the Liberals.

Expect the Harper government to shift strongly to the right and move the country further into line with George W. Bush's policies in Washington.

Harper's Cabinet, announced on Feb. 6, includes three ministers who served in Mike Harris's Ontario Conservative government. Also, former Progressive-Conservative Leader Peter MacKay received the post of Foreign Affairs; Monte Solberg, Citizenship and Immigration; and Stockwell Day, Public Safety. As the Jerusalem Post article declared on Jan. 25: Jews look for pro-Israel turn as Conservatives win Canadian vote. MacKay's views on the Middle East are largely unknown, but Day who will be in charge of the Canadian border and Public Safety is a strong supporter of Israel.

David Emerson, who was elected as a Liberal in Vancouver-Kingsway, defected to the government to become Minister of International Trade. The Conservatives placed a poor third and there has been a major uproar in the riding over Emerson's decision.

Calgary Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy who has shown some understanding of Arab views was surprisingly shut out of Cabinet. She was, however, made Parliamentary Secretary to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Jason Kenny, a strong supporter of Israel's right wing, was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Multiculturalism. Deepak Obhrai is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs as is Peter Van Loan M.P. for York-Simcoe. Ed Kormarnicki is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Oxford MP Dave McKenzie is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.

There are no Muslims or Arabs holding positions in Cabinet or as Parliamentary Secretaries. However, Japanese Canadian Bev Oda is Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women and Michael Chong, of Chinese descent, is President of the Queens Privy Council, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Sport providing representation from Canada's visible minorities in Harper's Cabinet. Bill Casey Conservative M.P. for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley was re-elected in Nova Scotia. Casey has been active on the Palestinian issue in Ottawa.

Only two Arab-Canadian MPs (both Liberals) were elected; Paul Zed, of Lebanese descent, was re-elected in Saint John, New Brunswick, and Omar Alghabra, a Syrian born in Saudi Arabia, won in Mississauga-Erindale. The riding was formerly held by the outspoken Carolyn Parrish, who was kicked out of the Caucus for her attacks on Paul Martin, strong opposition to George Bush's war on Iraq, and support for the Palestinians.

Alghabra, a past-president of the Canadian Arab Federation, overcame many obstacles to win a hotly contested nomination over Charles Sousa, a prominent banker and close friend of Paul Martin. As the Liberal Party candidate, Alghabra became the target of a vicious anti-Muslim smear campaign, and was attacked by left-wing Muslims and also by right-wing Muslims for his moderate views on Islam.

Alghabra is the lone Arab-Canadian in the House of Commons and one of only four Muslims. The others are Liberals Wajid Khan (Mississauga-Streetsville) and Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East), and Conservative Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton-Strathcona).

Alghabra is one of the few Canadians born in the Arab World to be elected to Parliament. In the Sentate, Pierre Debane, a Quebec MP in Pierre Trudeau's government, was born in Haifa, Palestine, and Mac Harb, born in Lebanon, was elected as a Liberal MP in Ottawa and was appointed to the Senate in 2004.

Other Liberal ridings of interest to the Canadian Arab Community and the Canadian Muslim Community include the re-election of Colleen Beaumier (Brampton-West), head of the Canada Arab World Parliamentary Association. Joe Fontana, a strong supporter of the Palestinians and Arab community was re-elected in London-North-Centre. Andrew Telegdi was re-elected in Kitchener-Waterloo. He has worked closely with the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) and has spoken out against the security certificates. Former Foreign Affairs Minister and Defence Minister Bill Graham was re-elected in Toronto-Centre. He is a former professor of International Relations.

The defeat of Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew in the Montreal riding of Papineau may have been due to displeasure at the pro-Israel reorientation in Martin's Middle East policy. Pettigrew's riding has 3,464 Arabs and 9,635 Muslim voters, and he won the 2004 election by only 468 votes. This time he lost by 1,153 votes to the Bloc.

In Brossard-La Prairie, which has 1,860 Arabs and 3,830 Muslims, Jacques Saada also paid the price for his pro-Israeli views, losing to the Bloc by 2,077 votes. Liz Frulla, a member of Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel lost her Quebec riding of Jeanne Le Ber by 3,188 votes. She has 2,000 Arabs and 4,020 Muslims in her riding. Liberal Eleni Bakopanas lost her Ahuntsic riding by 662 votes. It has a large Arab population of 6,550 and 5,725 Muslims.

For the NDP, Alexa McDonough was reelected in Halifax, Joe Comartin was re-elected in Windsor-Tecumseh and Libby Davies was re-elected in Vancouver East. Svend Robinson, a strong supporter of the Palestinians but who had resigned in disgrace after a shoplifting scandal, was defeated in his bid to return to the House of Commons. Ian Waddell lost to David Emerson.

In the 2004 election, the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) strongly urged Muslims to hold their noses and vote Liberal to stop the Conservatives. This call certainly helped the Liberals win a few seats and to form a minority government. In the 2006 election the CIC told Muslims to vote for the best local candidate on the Muslim community issues. Disenchanted with the Liberals they did not endorse a political party.

The CIC Political Action Committee claimed that their Election Report Card was a success and that they had an impact on the election outcome. The CICPAC campaign to "vote candidates not parties" reportedly helped MPs from all parties get elected in 2006. According to the CIC, their election exit polls show that more than 70% of eligible Canadian Muslims cast ballots. Among candidates who received a positive "A" or "B" grading by CICPAC, 73% were elected. Candidates who received an unsatisfactory "F" grade, 33% were defeated. CICPAC's report card is posted at www.canadianislamiccongress.com/election2006/election_results.php.

MPs who received a Grade of F and were defeated included Liberals Liza Frulla, Jacques Saada and Sarmite Bulte in Parkdale-High Park. Bulte lost to the NDP's Peggy Nash who was endorsed by the CIC.

It is clear that the Canadian Arab community and the Canadian Muslim community are getting more politically involved and effective, but most would agree that much work needs to be done to get the concerns of the Arab and Muslim community in Canada addressed by Canada's political institutions.

Ed Corrigan is a lawyer certified as a Specialist by the Law Society of Upper Canada in Immigration law and refugee protection with offices located in London Ontario at 383 Richmond St. Suite 902, tel 519-439-4015 and at 3195 Erindale Station, Rd in Mississauga, tel: 905-290-9018. Toll free number is 1-800-883-6217. His email is corriganlaw@linkd.net.