In the ongoing Canadian election campaign, we’re seeing a lot of examples for ethnic outreach done right – especially with the micro-targeted campaign ads that the Conservative Party has recently released in minority languages like Mandarin and Cantonese and Punjabi.
This is an innovation above and beyond the targeting methods in 2008, when they employed marketing techniques to tailor policy proposals to certain voter segments. For example, they gave fictional names to represent hypothetical voters in a group of the population they sought to appeal to.
‘Zoey’ represented an urbanite who eats organic food and is entirely inaccessible to the Conservatives, while ‘Dougie’ is a tradesman from a small town who is in his 20s.
In this election, we now have Alice, Tim, Harry and Nina – all minorities who are Conservative Party politicians, speaking in their native language to members of their ethnic group.
Here Conservative Member of Parliament for Richmond Dr. Alice Wong delivers a pitch to voters in Cantonese.
A similar ad, this time narrated in Mandarin by Harry Tsai, a Conservative Party candidate in Scarborough-Agincourt.
This is the first of two advertisements targeting South Asians; this one features Member of Parliament Tim Uppal making his pitch in Punjabi before switching over to English: “The Conservatives fight for our values: belief in hard work, tradition and the importance of family… isn’t it time we all voted for our values?”
This reflects the strategy that the Conservative Party’s ethnic outreach point man and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, outlined to FrumForum in a profile we did of him in June 2010:
[N]ew Canadians are naturally conservative in the way they live their lives: they are entrepreneurial; they have a remarkable work ethic; they are… [an] aspirational class; they want stability; they are intolerant of crime and disorder; they have a profound devotion to family and tradition, including institutions of faith,” said Minister Kenney. “That whole spectrum of values is conservative – but they didn’t vote for us.
Kenney and the rest of the Conservative Party are hammering these value points home. In the last of the four videos the Conservatives have released targeting ethnic minorities, MP Nina Grewal tells the viewer:
Indo-Canadians have worked hard to build Canada. Things haven’t always been fair for us, but the Conservatives have always recognized our history and our community sacrifice. The Conservatives fight for our values: belief in hard work, respect for tradition, and the importance of family. That’s why I’m a Conservative – isn’t it time for us to vote our values?
The vote of ethnic minorities are especially crucial for the Conservative Party because they are a mere twelve seats from a majority government, and many of those seats left up for grabs are suburban ridings that have substantial communities of ethnic minorities.
On the other hand, the Liberal Party has decided to take an entirely different approach. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday that he found the use of the phrase “ethnic vote” offensive:
“I think it is contemptuous to tell people we are going to target your religion, we are going to target your ethnicity, we are going to target your national origins. No! We must target the fact they are Canadian citizens,” he said.
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