Desmond Cole’s analysis at Torontoist, illustrating with numerous telling charts, of nationality and ethnicity and race as factors in Toronto politics, is telling. Plenty of links at the Torontoist site.
In their publication “Who Votes in Toronto Municipal Elections?” Ryerson University professor Myer Siemiatycki and geographic analyst Sean Marshall explore how immigration, visible minority status, income, and home ownership affected residents’ likelihood of voting in the last three municipal elections. Their findings show that neighbourhoods and wards with higher proportions of immigrants and visible minorities tend to have lower turnout rates.
Siemiatycki ranked Toronto’s 44 wards by turnout and then looked at the percentage of immigrants in each ward. In the 10 wards with the lowest turnout, immigrants comprised an average of 63 per cent of the population, visible minorities 62.7 per cent. Immigrants made up 37 per cent of the population of the top 10 wards for voter turnout, visible minorities just 27 per cent.
“The short answer is, not enough of us turn out to vote,” said Siemiatycki in an interview earlier this month. The report states that “voter turnout over the last three Toronto municipal elections averaged 42.7%, compared to a 61.6% turnout average in the last three federal elections.” But Siemiatycki expressed particular concern about the lower turnout rates among immigrants and residents of visible minority status.
“One very likely explanation is that the composition of elected officials and candidates is not representative of the communities,” Siemiatycki explained, noting that only five of Toronto’s 45 city council members belong to a visible minority group, and that this pattern of disproportionate representation exists across the GTA. “This sends a signal that our elections and politics are the domain of some people and not others,” said Siemiatycki.
Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc write a nice post examining quieter issues of class and race which contaminate Toronto politics.
During the scrum following Friday night’s shouty debate about priority neighbourhoods, a Global News reporter asked John Tory if he believed that white privilege exists. Tory, in a clip that ricocheted around the city all weekend, denied it, and then attempted to backtrack by talking about the importance of giving people living in communities like Jane-Finch a “hand up.”
At another debate at the C.D. Howe Institute a few weeks ago, Tory also stated that racism wasn’t a factor. Yet despite such denials, discussion over the role of race in this election — which began with the deluge of odious attacks against Olivia Chow — only intensified after Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar, who is challenging Rob Ford and Andray Domise, tweeted disturbing images of a campaign flyer with her face scrawled out above the words, “Go home.” Kristyn Wong-Tam has also received a stream of hateful correspondence that blends racism and homophobia.
Anyone who professes surprise that the election has exposed this side of the city needs to re-examine their assumptions. Yes, Toronto is a remarkably diverse, and impressively peaceful, city. We haven’t had the sort of racially-fueled riots that tore up suburban areas in Paris and London in recent years. But it doesn’t follow that the absence of such explosive responses to grinding poverty, social exclusion and racial profiling means that all is well.
Still, the racism narrative is complicated. The Fords gave a lot of people permission to publicly express themselves in ways that they might not have indulged in a different political climate. Moreover, the psycho-geography of racism in Toronto is linked to culture, religion, location, and the social-professional origins of specific newcomer communities. This story plays out in lots of different ways.