Fifty individuals with visible minority origins won their way into Parliament in the federal election of October 31, 2019 – the largest number of such MPs ever to be elected. However, the achievement is tempered somewhat by the fact that the increase from the 2015 election is fairly modest and the population-based deficit in representation is about where it had been in that previous election. On the other hand, when candidates are taken into consideration, the picture that emerges for 2019 is somewhat more positive. The evidence points to the parties, at least in their local guises, continuing to do more to champion visible minority candidacies. Indeed, it is possible that the candidate data yield a better indication of the openness of the electoral process to minorities than simply a tally of the number of visible minority MPs elected.
The federal election of October 19, 2015 established a high water mark in the representation of racial diversity in Parliament with the election of 45 MPs with visible minority origins. Their relative presence jumped over four percentage points compared to the 2011 general election and their larger number markedly narrowed the population-based gap in representation. As an account of this improvement in the representation of visible minority MPs, the focus here is on aspects of the candidate nomination process, with an approach informed by the supposition that heightened competition among the three largest parties engendered a greater degree of vote-seeking among immigrant and minority communities.
The 2011 federal election was notable in many respects. The Liberal party won the fewest seats ever in its long history. The New Democratic Party elected its largest ever contingent of MPs enabling the party to form the official opposition for the first time. Another development was the first-ever direct election of a Green Party candidate. The election also produced record levels of gender and racial diversity within Parliament. When the votes were finally tallied, 76 women had won their way into the House of Commons, an increase of seven over the number elected in 2008. This article focuses on visible minority representation which also attained a high water mark in the 2011 election.
While there is an ongoing need to learn more about the position and experience of visible minorities among the federal legislative elite, one reality is very well understood: they remain underrepresented – both as candidates and, more importantly, as MPs. This paper considers the 2008 federal election as an additional observation and testing point. Its specific aim is to determine whether characterizations about the incidence of visible minority MPs based on studies of elections from 1993 to 2006 still apply when this election is taken into account. The article also discusses visible minorities as candidates in that election. This is in keeping with the focus of previous scholarship on candidacy as a necessary condition for entry into the Commons. This entails not only “counting” them but as well examining which parties they ran for and the competitive status of the constituencies that they contested – all of this in an effort to shed some light on the parties’ depth of commitment to visible minorities as serious contenders for winning Parliamentary seats.