Election 2015: Courting the votes of new Canadians

Some federal politicians are hoping to capture the elusive “new Canadian” vote in this election campaign.

1 in 4 residents in Ottawa-Gatineau register as a visible minority

Courting the vote of new Canadians

8 years ago
Duration 2:38
Major political parties are targeting the votes of new Canadians, which could be up for grabs.

Some politicians running in the 2015 federal election are hoping to capture the elusive "new Canadian" vote.

About one in four people in Ottawa-Gatineau are from a visible minority group and many have settled in suburban ridings.

Siddhartha Kumar will vote for the first time in this federal election since becoming a Canadian citizen on Canada Day in 2011.

"When I became a Canadian, I had just missed the election, I really wanted to vote. Voting is a right, it's something that's very important to me," said Kumar.

Kumar, now president of the Network of Indian Professionals, won't give a hint as to which party he supports but he realizes all the major parties want his vote.

"A lot of new immigrants, I can talk about Indo-Canadians, would vote Liberal, however in the past election that has changed and partly because Conservatives recognize they have to reach out and you see them a lot at different events."

Newcomer candidates running in Ottawa ridings

Like Kumar, Liberal candidate Chandra Arya came to Canada from India about 12 years ago.

Arya wants to be the first MP for the new riding of Nepean, but he doesn't take the votes of fellow immigrants for granted.

Chandra Arya is running for the Liberal Party in the new riding of Nepean. (cbc)
"The new Canadians have gotten integrated into the political system so there is no single party which can claim them. New Canadians, visible minorities, everybody has the same concerns," said Arya.

He said the refugee crisis is just one issue he's hearing about at the door.

"New Canadians and most mainstream Canadians, they are really, really concerned for refugees."

But Arya said other issues are resonating more with the newcomers.

"When it comes to things like citizenship, that's something mainstream Canadians don't give a thought about," said Arya.

Arya said voters are talking about Bill C-24, a new law recently brought in by the Conservative Government that increased citizenship application fees and gave the immigration minister the power to revoke citizenship in extreme cases.

It's an issue NDP candidate George Brown said he's also hearing as he campaigns in Ottawa South.

Reaching out to 'expand the vote'

George Brown is the NDP candidate for Ottawa South. (cbc)
Brown, an immigration lawyer, recognizes the diversity in this suburban constituency which has the largest Muslim population in the region. 

The NDP has always placed third in Ottawa South and that means Brown needs a strategy.

"Reaching out to specific populations, like we're doing, reaching out to people who don't vote, so expanding the vote," said Brown who has recruited members of the Muslim community to help out.

"We've got a group of young leaders from the Muslim Community who are going to do our own voter education. With the conservative government, changes to voter ID requirements, we're worried people aren't going to be able to vote."

Abdul Abdi is the Conservative Party candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean. (CBC News)
Abdul Abdi came to Ottawa from Somalia in his early teens, became involved with the community and is now a police officer who is running for the Conservatives in Ottawa West-Nepean.

"I think there are a lot of Somalis who are interested and I think this election will matter," said Abdi.

Recent immigrants less likely to vote

According to recent studies done for Elections Canada, recent immigrants are significantly less likely to vote than other Canadians but some may be more attracted to the ballot box by candidates who reflect their community.

Siddhartha Kumar said he'll continue to pressure members of his community to get out the vote, no matter where they live or who they want to support.

"Most immigrants have been through a lot. They have something in them, they're entrepreneurial, risk taking, they will find their way. They're generally smart people as well," said Kumar.


Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior investigative reporter with CBC Ottawa. She's also the multi-award winning host of the CBC investigative podcasts, The Banned Teacher found at: and The Band Played On found at: You can reach her at