In Agincourt, the Oct. 25 municipal election will likely be decided by new Canadians.
That is, if the candidates can lure them out to the polls.
“With the newest Canadians, many of them are struggling to [establish themselves],” said Ward 40 councillor Norm Kelly. “They have other demanding things in their lives, and voting and participating in the system is, for many of them, peripheral.”
The two wards have among of the highest numbers of new Canadians in all of Scarborough, city stats show. Two thirds of residents are immigrants, primarily from East Asia.
Gaining the support of these voters is crucial for council candidates and incumbents.
“The first thing I do is make sure that I drop literature at the door,” Kelly said. “And I write a column for a couple of Chinese newspapers, where I talk politics and government.”
In Ward 39, more than half the population is composed of immigrants from mainland China and Hong Kong.
“I have been putting out a newsletter in Chinese to bring people up to date in respect to issues,” said Ward 39 councillor Mike Del Grande. “And when anybody moves into the neighbourhood I try to introduce myself.”
Other candidates find it tough to take votes away from the established opponent.
“In order to beat my incumbent, I need to work extra hard for the minority vote,” said Ward 40 candidate Ken Sy, an entrepreneur who emigrated from Hong Kong. “A lot of minorities don’t understand their rights, they don’t understand the importance of casting their vote, so I have to draw their attention.”
But it’s not just about getting them to vote for a specific candidate, said Ward 39 candidate Caldwell Williams. It’s about getting them involved in the democratic process.
“It’s the whole education around civic engagement,” he said. “It’s just good have as many people as aware of the options and the opportunities they have in politics.”