Only six of the Conservative candidates leading or elected in 119 ridings across the country are Black, Indigenous or a person of colour (BIPOC) — a share of the total that’s even lower now that it was before the election because some Conservative incumbents lost their seats.
A CBC News analysis of the preliminary results shows the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, nine per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC.
The Conservatives retained seats in rural areas and picked up some support in Atlantic Canada — parts of the country that are, generally speaking, whiter than others. But the party struggled in Canada’s urban and suburban areas, regions where racial demographics have changed dramatically over the last 40 years due to waves of non-white immigration.
The Tory caucus will be less diverse than the class of 2019 because at least five Conservative MPs — Kenny Chiu, Nelly Shin and Alice Wong from Vancouver-area ridings, Bob Saroya from the riding of Markham-Unionville (a suburb of Toronto) and Calgary’s Jag Sahota — are on track to lose to Liberal or NDP candidates.
CBC News has asked the Liberal and New Democrat parties for a breakdown of BIPOC representation in their caucuses.
Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party has had a lock on many of the country’s urban and suburban ridings and there’s some NDP representation in cities like Edmonton, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
Over the past three election cycles, the Conservatives have struggled to reach the high-water mark set in 2011 when former prime minister Stephen Harper cruised to victory thanks in part to strong suburban support in the Toronto and Vancouver areas.
The six racially diverse Conservative candidates who were elected on Monday are Leslyn Lewis in Haldimand—Norfolk and Michael Chong in Wellington—Halton Hills (two more rural parts of Ontario), Jasraj Singh Hallan in Calgary Forest Lawn, Ziad Aboultaif and Tim Uppal in Edmonton-area seats, and Marc Dalton, who identifies as Métis, in the B.C. riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.
It’s a disappointing result for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who sought to bring more BIPOC Canadians into the Conservative fold as part of a push to unseat the governing Liberals.
O’Toole stressed the importance of diversity in his Monday concession speech after it became clear that the party was poised to lose some of the diversity in its caucus.
“We will continue to put in the time showing more Canadians that they are welcome in the Conservative Party of Canada,” O’Toole said at his event in Oshawa, Ont.
“Above all, we must continue to show Canadians, whether you’re black, white, brown or from any race or creed, whether you’re LGBTQ or straight, whether you are an Indigenous Canadian or came to Canada five weeks ago or five generations ago … you have a place in the Conservative Party.”
Some racialized voters ‘nervous’ about voting Conservative: activist
Sukhi Sandhu is a former Liberal voter from Surrey, B.C. who backed the Conservatives in this campaign. He’s also co-founder of Wake Up Surrey, a grassroots anti-gang violence group.
He said he has soured on what he calls Liberal “lip-service” and “performative politics” on issues that matter to his South Asian community, such as crime and gang violence, immigration fraud and international student exploitation.
Sandhu said many racialized Canadians are frustrated with the Liberal government’s record in office — and O’Toole and his team failed to capitalize on their disillusionment.
He said that, based on conversations with his neighbours, some Canadians from diverse backgrounds are still skeptical of the Conservatives.
The party’s platform made no mention of racism or systemic discrimination — a red flag for some would-be Conservative voters, Sandhu said. During the campaign, O’Toole faced pointed questions about why “Canada’s recovery plan” had more to say about dogs and animal welfare than marginalized communities.
“People were still nervous about what the Conservative brand stood for. They were asking, ‘Do they actually value inclusion and equity?’ I’m sure many second- and third-generation immigrants were looking for a political home and the Conservative approach wasn’t compelling enough,” Sandhu told CBC News.
“The issues of systemic racism, inequity and social justice — those issues have to be paramount in every party. There’s a responsibility for the Conservative Party to engage with these issues. It’s not just about star candidates from an immigrant background. It’s not about tokenism. You’ve got to understand what your potential voter pool really cares about.
“If you’re out to lunch on this or if you have your head in the sand, then you’re going to lose at the ballot box. On systemic racism, the Conservatives need to wrap their heads around it. It’s about setting the foundation and building trusting relationships, not hollow words.”
Sandhu said he’s not surprised to hear the Conservative caucus in the Commons will be 95 per cent white. He said the party hasn’t built strong relationships with racial and ethnic community leaders in the swing ridings that often decide which party will be in power in Ottawa.
“It tells me the Conservative Party is struggling. You need to develop a pipeline of activists from marginalized communities — and there’s still some concern that this party does not respect or understand our unique identity as racialized Canadians,” he said.