Canadian Politics

A14(a) - Identity and Self-Presentation in Canadian Elections

Date: Jun 13 | Time: 03:30pm to 05:00pm | Location:

Ethnoracial Identity and Candidate Self-Presentation in Canadian Provincial Elections: Daniel Westlake (University of Saskatchewan), Jacob Robbins-Kanter (Bishop's University)
Abstract: Local campaigns offer candidates a chance to emphasize shared characteristics and to build a common affinity with voters. A substantial amount of research examines whether voters from ethnoracial minority groups are more likely to vote for candidates who share such an identity (e.g. Besco, 2019), and the way that the media covers ethnoracialized candidates (Tolley, 2016). But how do candidates choose to present their own ethnic and racial identities to voters? Drawing on local candidate biographies from the 2022 Ontario and Quebec provincial elections, this paper examines the way that four contextual factors shape candidate self-presentation of ethnoracial identity. These include demographic composition of the riding, competitiveness of the riding, party affiliation, and the distinct discourses surrounding ethnoracial and religious identity between Ontario and Quebec (for the last of these see Turgeon et al., 2019). In doing so, this paper provides important insight not only into descriptive representation of ethnoracial minority candidates, but also when candidates from such backgrounds highlight (or downplay) their identities when campaigning. Our initial findings suggest that riding demographics and party affiliation matter most for whether a candidate emphasizes a non-European ethnoracial identity. We find little effects for riding competitiveness and, surprisingly, minimal differences by province.

Indigenous Political Empowerment in Provincial Elections: An Analysis of the Affinity Model of Engagement and Voting across Canada: Karen Bird (McMaster University), Nicholas Hinsperger (McMaster University)
Abstract: The proposed paper examines Indigenous voting behavior in recent provincial elections across Canada. Measuring Indigenous voter behaviour in provincial or federal elections is inherently problematic, as many Indigenous people resist such involvement, viewing it as an indirect acknowledgment of settler-colonial authority over their lands and communities. However, it is evident that a significant number of Indigenous people do participate in elections, and the growing presence of Indigenous candidates in the political arena signals a shifting landscape. For instance, the historic election of Wab Kinew as Manitoba's (and Canada’s) first-ever First Nations premier in October 2023 underscores the potential for provinces to become crucial platforms for Indigenous voter empowerment. Our paper aims to make several substantial contributions to understanding Indigenous political engagement in the context of provincial elections. First, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the representation of Indigenous candidates and elected members across 10 provincial legislatures. Our methodology relies on a web-based analysis of candidate self-disclosure and well-informed observer accounts for the past two elections in each province. Second, replicating work by Dabin et al. (2018) on federal elections, we conduct a comparative analysis of Indigenous voter turnout in provincial elections, drawing on an original dataset that matches aggregate turnout data with census tract information on Indigenous population share. Third, we test the affinity-engagement hypothesis that Indigenous turnout in provincial elections is linked to the presence of Indigenous candidates. Lastly, we use our dataset to examine the affinity-voting hypothesis, which suggests that political parties fielding Indigenous candidate should receive a higher share of vote in Indigenous constituencies, compared to parties that do not. In sum, this paper aspires to provide better understanding of Indigenous political engagement in provincial elections across Canada. Our findings will contribute valuable insights to the ongoing discourse surrounding Indigenous rights, representation, and participation in the electoral process, and advance the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable political landscape.

Won’t Be Silenced: Identity in the Campaign Communications of Indigenous Candidates in the 2021 Canadian Election: Angelia Wagner (University of Alberta), Mireille Lalancette (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières,), Joanna Everitt (University of New Brunswick,), Karen Bird (McMaster University)
Abstract: Notions of the ideal politician as a white, heterosexual man are deeply entrenched in Canadian politics. Racialized politicians are thus careful about discussing their race or race-related issues in their campaign communications to avoid negative media and voter assessments (Lalancette et al. 2023; Wagner et al., 2023). But the rise of Indigenous nationalism in the late 1960s and subsequent movements such as Idle No More raises questions about whether Indigenous candidates are equally reluctant to discuss identity on the campaign trail. Identity has long been central to Indigenous activism, with considerable efforts placed on cultural and linguistic resurgence. A growing number of Indigenous candidates are also seeking federal office, yet little is known about the political communication strategies of these candidates. This paper addresses this gap by asking the following question: How and why do Indigenous candidates deploy identity in their campaign communications? To answer this question, we conducted a discourse analysis of the Twitter and Instagram accounts of select Indigenous candidates during the 2021 Canadian election. We also draw upon interviews with six Indigenous candidates about their communication strategies. Preliminary findings indicate that Indigenous candidates avidly deployed Indigenous imagery, issues, and languages when addressing voters on social media. This behaviour is in contrast to other minority politicians in Canada, who tend to downplay their racial identities on Twitter and in online biographies. An analysis of the interview data is expected to determine why Indigenous candidates feel more comfortable in highlighting their identity during the campaign.