Iranian-Canadians can swing at least 17 seats across Canada in 2019 election
By Parsa Albeheshti
With the 43rd Canadian general election fast approaching, Canada’s major political parties are competing to gain the support of different communities in order to secure a substantial number of ridings in what is projected to be a heated election. The Iranian-Canadian community - consisting of over 300,000 members nationwide - is indeed a large, active and influential community, and one with many political concerns. Therefore, at the IC Journal we have conducted an analysis of the influence of the Iranian-Canadian vote in the composition of Canada’s 43rd Parliament.
We have identified a total of 40 Federal Electoral Districts where Iranian-Canadians make up a significant portion of the population. Using data gathered through the 2016 (most recent) census, we approximated the number of Iranian-Canadian voters in these ridings. The population number from the Census based on language preferences is the best estimation available*.
Next, we examined the results of the most recent election in each district, identifying the winning MP’s party affiliation, the total number of votes for each political party in respective ridings, and the incumbent’s winning margin. By comparing the number of Iranian-Canadian voters with the incumbent’s margin, we tried to determine whether Iranian-Canadian voters can change or affect the results of the upcoming election in each of these 40 electoral districts in any significant way.
Furthermore, we compared the results of our analysis with riding-based projections made by 338 Canada, in order to see if there is expected to be a change in those ridings in the upcoming election. It is important to note that these projections do not take into account the asymmetrical influence of ethnic votes in certain ridings, and their results must be examined independently of the influence of Iranian-Canadian voters. On the other hand, the analysis presented here only takes into account the vote of Iranian-Canadians and assumes that all other conditions remain unchanged from the last federal election.
Finally, we categorized the identified ridings into tiers (1, 2, 3, and 4) based on the extent of Iranian voters influence, where in electoral districts marked as tier 1, votes from the Iranian-Canadian community alone can change results compared to the previous election. Here is a list of ridings where Iranian-Canadian voters have the most influence.
A tier one riding, Willowdale is the federal electoral district with the largest Iranian-Canadian population. The incumbent MP, Ali Ehsassi of the Liberal Party, won the 2015 election by a margin of 7,529 votes over the Conservative candidate. The Iranian community played a major role in supporting and electing MP Ehsassi in the last election. However, there has been growing criticism in the community about his performance and some Iranian-Canadians who supported him in the 2015 election are expected not to support him in October. There are approximately 14,315 Iranian-Canadians in this riding, meaning even half of the Iranian voters alone can change the incumbent. The 338Canada poll also shows the Liberals only slightly ahead in Willowdale.
Richmond Hill has an Iranian population of about 13,370. The Liberal MP Majid Jowhari won the previous election by a difference of merely 1,757, meaning only a fraction of the Iranian vote alone could change upcoming election results. Iranian voters have major influence in this riding. Projections show a toss-up.
Aurora--Oak Ridges--Richmond Hill is currently a Conservative riding, being represented by MP Alleslev who won the previous election as a Libral by a difference of 1,093 votes. MP Alleslev later on crossed the aisle and joined Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, drawing much criticism from her constituency. There is a population of about 9,965 Iranian-Canadians in this riding, making it another significant district where a fraction of Iranian voters can alter results. Projections have shown that the riding is leaning towards the Conservative Party in the upcoming election.
The Liberal-held riding of Don Valley North has an Iranian population of about 8,845 people. Incumbent MP Tan, however, won the last election by a difference of only 6,215 over the Conservative Party. The Iranian vote can therefore influence the election results significantly in this riding. Polls suggest the riding leans towards the Liberal Party.
In the riding of King--Vaughan where there is an estimated Iranian population of 3,590, Liberal incumbent MP Schulte won the previous election by a close difference of 1,738 votes from the Conservative candidate. 338Canada predicts another toss-up in the upcoming election, meaning Iranian votes could be defining.
Newmarket--Aurora is represented by Liberal MP Peterson who won the last election by a close margin of 1,450. The district has an Iranian population of about 3,340. Projections show a toss-up in this district, meaning Iranian-Canadian votes can be a deciding factor in October.
York Centre is currently represented by Michael Levitt, a Liberal MP who has called for sanctions against Iran and reportedly convinced the party leadership in June 2018 to support the Conservative motion that called for Canada to immediately cease all negotiations with Iran about restoring diplomatic relations. Because of his hawkish views on Iran, many Iranian-Canadian voters are not expected to support MP Levitt in the upcoming election . Levitt was elected in 2015 by an extremely close margin of only 1,238 votes over the Conservative candidate. Meanwhile, there is an influential population of 1,605 Iranian voters in the riding. 338Canada has also predicted a possible change in the upcoming election, as the district is leaning towards the Conservatives.
In Don Valley West, the Iranian-Canadian voters can significantly influence the outcome. The riding is currently Liberal-held, and represented in Parliament by MP Oliphant. He was elected in the previous election by a difference of 8,266. The Iranian population of this district is about 4,020, not very far off from the number of votes needed for the Liberals to secure a re-election. A likely Liberal win is projected regardless.
Vaughan--Woodbridge is currently held by the Liberals and MP Sorbara, who was elected in 2015 with a difference of 2,484 votes over the Conservatives. The Iranian community makes up an estimated 1,735 of the population in this district, meaning their votes may alter the results. Projections, too, show that this is a potential swing riding.
Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam in British Columbia is currently represented by Liberal MP McKinnon. The district has an Iranian population of about 6,980, while McKinnon won by a margin of only 1,855 votes. 338Canada has projected a likely Conservative win in this district, confirming that it is highly possible that we see a change in this riding in October.
Port Moody--Coquitlam is another BC riding with a significant Iranian population of approximately 3,780. The riding is currently held by the NDP and represented by MP Donnelly who won the previous election by a margin of 2,818 votes over the Liberal Party. 338Canada projections show that the riding leans towards the Conservatives.
Burnaby South is represented by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who was elected in the recent by-election by a margin of 2,929 votes higher than the Liberals. The Iranian-Canadian population is estimated at 2,215. A likely NDP win is projected in the next election.
Burnaby North--Seymour has a population of 2,015 Iranian-Canadians. The incumbent Liberal MP Beech won the previous election by a difference of 4,326 votes. 338Canada has predicted a toss-up election. Again the Iranian-Canadian voters can be a deciding factor in this district.
The Quebec riding Outremont has an Iranian population of 1,945 people, while the incumbent Liberal MP Bandayan was elected in the recent by-election by a margin of 1,944 votes. This means that the Iranian-Canadian votes will be an important factor. A likely Liberal win is still projected in this district.
The Quebec district Mount Royal is home to about 2,525 Iranian-Canadian voters. Incumbent Liberal MP Housefather was elected by a margin of 5,989 votes. 338Canada has predicted a safe Liberal win in the upcoming election in this electoral district.
Laurier--Sainte-Marie is another important riding for the Iranian-Canadian community considering that one of the candidates is Iranian-Canadian. The riding is currently represented by the popular NDP MP Helene Laverdiere who has announced she will no longer run in 2019, leaving the seat open. The NDP won this riding by a difference of 5,230 votes over Bloc Quebecois, in large part due to the incumbent’s popularity. The population of Iranian voters is only around 980 people. Projections show that this might be a swing riding and we might see a shift to the Liberals in the next election. Therefore Iranian-Canadian votes can be a defining factor in a close election.
The Alberta district Calgary Skyview is represented by Liberal MP Kang, who won the previous election over the Conservatives by a difference of 2,759 votes. There are about 1,550 Iranian-Canadian voters in the district, and 338Canada projects a likely change to Conservatives in the upcoming election.
As shown by the information above, while Iranian-Canadians are not a monolithic voting block, based on their population they have significant influence in several electoral districts, and can play an important role in the upcoming election. Therefore, it is important for political parties, candidates and especially for incumbents running for re-election to consider the concerns of the Iranian-Canadian community in their respective districts and as a whole. The heated climate of Canadian politics today, including the Liberal party’s failure to deliver on many of their campaign promises over the past four years may be indicative of a major political change in October, and Iranian-Canadian voters will be an important and influential part of this democratic process. A community long ignored and at times misrepresented in the Canadian political sphere, the Iranian-Canadian community today is far too active and far too influential for their demands and concerns to be overlooked.
* Note: In this analysis we did not apply a coefficient for voter turn out or for citizenship requirements. However, considering all external factors we believe the analysis provides us important insight about the electoral districts with higher Iranian-Canadian population.