STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

Elections in Canada can be boring when compared to the razzmatazz of a Pakistani campaign. The Canadian election writ period is much shorter than our minimum 3 months. There are no “Jalsas” with hundreds of thousands attendees or throngs of people and vehicles in a “jaloos”. There are hardly any animated discussions, fist fights or free for all shoving matches. The fate of the nation is decided at the polls as most Canadian voters take their civic duty seriously.

Door knocking by candidates and lawn signs give some visibility of the elections. The battle for hearts and minds is waged on media spearheaded by Party leaders. They crisscross the country speaking at corner meetings and interacting with voters widely covered by the news outlets. This is the final week of this election campaign. It is a very tight race thus far with none of the main parties breaking out in a decisive lead as per opinion polls.

The main contest is between centre-left Liberals and right wing Conservatives, both hovering around 30%. The Liberals have a slight edge. The leftist NDP is around 18% largely eating into Liberal support. Bloc Quebecois, a regional party from Quebec, has 6.6% support nationwide. Since they are concentrated in one province it can translate into more seats. Right wing Peoples Party at 6.4% may not win any seats as their support is dispersed. Although it could cost Conservatives some valuable votes in swing ridings.

Last federal elections were held in October 2019 when Liberals formed a minority Government, down from a majority win in 2014. Governance with a minority is challenging in normal times. It intensified during COVID pandemic. Prime Minister Trudeau was able to navigate these rough waters quite successfully. Almost 68% of Canadians are fully vaccinated. He kept the Canadian families afloat through various support programs. Most businesses survived through proactive relief provided by Federal Government.

The spread of COVID was managed effectively. Exceptions being the hardcore right wing provincial governments of “deniers”. Canadian success story was appreciated globally. It gave Trudeau’s government the incentive to seek a mid-term majority to finish coping with the pandemic, rebuild the economy and manage debt arising from these unfortunate times.

Prime Minister may have misread the tea leaves as shown in present poll numbers.  There is an urgent need to mobilize Liberal support through highlighting the issues at stake. Monitoring the election activity, it is clear that new Canadians are complacent; assuming victory. I am supporting Iqra Khalid in my riding Erin Mills and my friend Shafqat Ali from Brampton Centre. Liberals lead in both ridings but it can be much better.

Having seen the two terms of Stephen Harper we must remember the squeeze applied on new Canadians. Before deciding who to vote for, let us focus on issues that impact us all and our future generations.

PROTECTION FROM ISLAMOPHOBIA: Leaders paid lip service on this phenomenon. The reality is that while voting on the Motion M-103 on religious discrimination, 86 out of 88 Conservative members opposed it including their present leader Erin O’Toole. Leopards don’t change their spots.

SYSTEMIC RACISM: All leaders accept its existence. That is where it stops with Conservatives. Nowhere in their platform is racism mentioned. We saw its ugly manifestation in London, Ontario. Liberals are inclusive in Parliament, Cabinet and other fields.

CLIMATE CHANGE: It is the biggest threat. Raging fires, extreme weather and ferocious hurricanes are a direct result of global warming. Yet Conservatives continue to ignore it like their Trumpian cousin to the South. Liberals are committed to deal with it.

ANTI-VACCINE AND COVID DENIERS: Most Canadians are vaccinated, yet new cases are mounting, mainly amongst non-vaccinated. O’Toole can’t even convince his own candidates to get the jabs. Denial of science is rampant amongst Trump supporters in the South and the same thinking prevails amongst Conservatives in Canada.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Property prices have gone through the roof. They are unaffordable and there is a strong need for the Government to step in. Liberals have made commitments. Conservatives philosophy does not believe in social spending.

GUN CONTROL: Assault weapons and racist attacks go hand in hand. Conservatives like the Republicans are beholden to the gun lobby. Liberals stand for greater controls. Save Canada from weaponization.

IMMIGRATION: We as Muslims saw some dark days under Stephen Harper. Extreme form was Muslim ban by Trump. It is part of Conservative philosophy to restrict and discourage migration of folks that don’t look like them.

EQUITABLE ECONOMY: Conservatives don’t believe in it and they will continue to favor big business by giving them tax relief. Helping the lower and middle classes is not part of their agenda. Liberals’ entire focus is on these segments. The list goes on.

We saw a surge of Muslim voters turning up to vote in order to deny Harper another term in 2014. It is needed again. Failure to do so will push us back to those dark days. As Citizens we need to get out and be counted.

A message for those of us with a social conscience attracted to NDP; please re-think. A split vote will not bring NDP to power but it will definitely deny us a Liberal Government. Can we afford to take that risk? Strategic voting will safeguard our society for the future generations. We owe it to them!


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