The New Democratic Party's leadership race is on!
Ultimately, this race determines who will lead the New Democratic Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election.
As Canadian Muslims, it is important that we exercise our civic duty to help choose the next leader of the New Democratic Party, who could be the next Prime Minister of Canada.
How to vote?
In order to vote for the next leader of the New Democratic Party, you must be holding an active membership to the New Democratic Party before August 17, 2017.
Over the past few weeks, The Canadian-Muslim Vote has been sitting down with the candidates contesting for the leadership of the New Democratic Party.
We have been profiling these candidates so that you (our readers) can make an informed voting decision.
Question: Please tell us a bit about your background.
Answer: I did a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Western Ontario and I did my law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. Thereafter, I practised law for about 6 years and I did almost exclusively criminal defence work.
Going back further, my story of when and where I was born was interesting. I was born in Scarborough and then I lived in St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador for about 5 years so a lot of my childhood firsts – learning how to speak English, ride a bike, and swim, and all that happened in St. John’s – so, it’s got a special place in my heart. That’s an Atlantic Canada connection. Thereafter, most of my childhood was in Windsor and I made my way slowly back to the GTA and went to London for school.
It’s kind of cool because it gives me a unique perspective - I was in Newfoundland around the time when I was still deciding if I wanted to run or not, and a local newspaper in St. John’s, which is the biggest one in Newfoundland & Labrador, did a piece and they kind of claimed me as one of their own, because I grew up there, I was a kid there, my brother and sister were both born there, so there’s this sort of “hey, he’s one of us” which is great. Plus, I can positively say I have a lot of memories and a positive association with Atlantic Canada.
Question: What motivated you to run for the nomination to be the next leader of the New Democratic Party and perhaps one day Prime Minister of Canada?
Answer: The process was not very straightforward, it wasn’t one moment, it was more of a series of moments.
The first moment was right after Tom Mulcair didn’t receive the support to continue as leader. There was some speculation by the media about who was going to be the next leader, and in that speculation, people ran different prospective names, and one of the names that came up, maybe not in a lot of journalist outlets, but in a couple, particularly in Toronto, was my name.
To me this was a bit of a shock because I’d never expressed any interest in it, had never even subtly hinted at any leadership whether federal or provincial, so I was a bit taken aback in a surprised sense, but not in an offended sense. In fact, I was honoured and flattered by it. I kind of just let that go, didn’t think much of it. But, the story kind of continued and I didn’t really end the story, I didn’t say I didn’t want to do it. I just thought not a bad thing for people to speculate about, I’m just not actually interested in it.
I thought it would just die out because I didn’t really say I was doing it. It didn’t really make sense anyways, like why would they assume a provincial member would do it, so I thought there wasn’t really a need for me to weigh in on it.
What happened after was a turning point; when I went to Alberta and British Columbia for conventions, I was invited as Deputy Leader of Ontario as a speaker there, and at both events I got a really positive response from membership - and the membership is not really that diverse, so the fact that I got a positive response from general membership made me think “hey, maybe there’s something here to this idea, people keep speculating, maybe there’s something to it”. And then in British Columbia, I had a really amazing response. So, we sat down as a team and this is when I started to do some soul-searching. I always felt like politics for me wasn’t a career but more so an honour and privilege, I get to this for as long as I can, and my goal was always, how can we as a team do as much positive in a short amount of time: impact people, Canadians, society. So, we were looking at that as a criterion. Then, at a federal level, we could take all the issues that we champion at a provincial level, and bring them to a federal level.
The extra thing that got me convinced that I can do this, that I can be good for this, was that I had met or continued to meet a lot of people that shared these social progressive values, these ideas of fighting against inequality, against injustice, and share the same kind of values that I have, as well as the NDP, but have never felt at home with the NDP. They never really felt like it was a place for them. I thought: “you know what, I could make sure people felt like they belonged”. I know what that feels like to not feel like you belong, so I felt like that’s something I could do. I could inspire people, make them feel like they belong, and do the maximum amount of good in the shortest period of time. It seemed like the universe was encouraging it to happen, with all the support people were giving me, so I thought: “let’s try to make some history and make it happen”.
I’m a bit of a disruptive being, if you think about what I represent - I am known as an urban hipster-ish person. I cycle, I go to different arts and cultures themes, I’m kind of known in that, I have a profile for fashion, so there’s a really random group of people I can reach out to because of that. At the same time, as a student I was an activist, I was involved in different protests, I provided legal services to different activists groups as a lawyer, so I have this activist background. I have this activist background, I have this hipster background. Though I love bicycling, but I do it in a suit, which is also kind of a bit disruptive. I don’t wear spandex, neon outfits. I’m biking to my meetings and I’m wearing this fancy suit, and people are like “man, why are you wearing a suit?” and I’m like “I’ve got a meeting” and they’re like “Why don’t you take a cabby down” and I’m like “I like biking”. So, I was an activist but a lawyer, I had my own small business, so in all these ways I kind of fit into these very different segments and I can appeal to people in a unique way because I have all these different experiences.
On top of all that, both my parents were, for generations and generations, farmers. Little known fact, I love and really believe in the importance of agriculture - having both my parents be, not just in their own life but generations and generations of farmers. That surprises people too because they’re like “oh, you’re just some downtown guy” and then I say “well, actually, all my family were farmers and into farming and I think we need to support farming because the reason they had to pursue other careers now, my mom went into education, my dad went into medicine – this was all because there was no future in farming because of government policies”. So, I’ve seen the direct impact of the lack of government support for a certain sector -which I think is fundamental for a country to be sovereign; you need to be able to feed yourself. Anyways, so I’ve got all these different unique kinds of backgrounds.
Another really cool thing is that the three most spoken languages in Canada right now are: English, second is French, and the third right now is Punjabi, if you break up the Chinese languages into Cantonese and Mandarin. So, I speak the three of the most spoken languages in the country. I think because of all these unique things, I can speak to the hearts and minds of a lot of people in an authentic way and I think that’s something that will be unique to my candidacy.
Question: Do you think your background influenced why you want to run for leadership in the first place?
Answer: My background influenced my values and influenced why I care. I think why I care leads me to why I want to be a leader. The reason I care, having faced some unfairness in my life already, having faced prejudice and stereotypes and negativity, and then more importantly having faced it and becoming sensitive to unfairness as it affects other people, that’s something that gave me a unique perspective because that’s something I’ve faced in my own life. I became more sensitive to the fact that we actually see unfairness in so many different facets of society and so many people are impacted by it. My mom always taught me that we’re connected, we’re all one, we all share this existence together, so we need to look out for each because if people around us aren’t doing well, we’re not doing well, and if we lift people up, we all rise together - that sentiment is very much something I took that to heart. Some people have faced financial barriers – I too have had my share of financial struggles when my father wasn’t able to work for a long period of time and there was a point in my 20s when I was the only breadwinner, or income earner, of the family, supporting my brother sister mom and dad. Having faced some of those economic struggles and some racial struggles, I’m in a position where these two things influence me to want to build a society that’s more inclusive, more just, where people have access to resources, where there’s equity. So, you could say, my life experiences drove me to care about these issues.
Question: So, that speaks to the influence of the decision to run. Can you speak to the qualification side of that a little bit? What do you feel about you, academically or otherwise, qualifies you?
Answer: Well, I have some personal attributes and personal experiences that will help me in that role. Direct experiences, I was Deputy Leader and for that period of time, I got the sense of what it was to be a leader. That puts me in a unique position because I’ve experienced a little bit of what it’s like to be leader of a party, so I can use that experience. The academic and work experience and activism has helped me to hone the ability to communicate. As a trial lawyer, I had to communicate on behalf of my clients, I had to fight on behalf of their interests, so I know that spirit of fighting on behalf of people I represent. I was a litigator, so that gives me that background of how to represent the interests of your constituents, citizens, the people of the country. The activism background I have is part of the spirit of wanting to fight against the injustice – so, I have that strong sense of being offended by injustice and wanting to rectify it and remedy it. And then, I think my style of leadership is that I’m happy and confident to make a decision but I’m also very confident in myself and secure in myself enough to listen to the advice of others and to consult with people and to acknowledge that I may not always have the answer but can find people who do. I think that requires confidence to accept that you don’t know the answer to everything and I’m very comfortable not knowing and admitting when I don’t and making sure I do find the answer, or find the expertise and the knowledge and experience necessary to make the right decision.
Question: So, there are a few other candidates in the race. What makes your leadership style different than theirs?
Answer: The unique experiences that I bring to the table give me a capacity to engage with people in a way that the other leaders that we’re up against (Trudeau and Scheer) can’t do. The experience of feeling prejudice and racism in my own life gives me a lens into the life of many people that face all sorts of prejudice. Having faced economic struggles gives me an ability to appreciate the struggles people face in a more authentic way than other people can. In addition, what I also bring to the table that is unique compared to the other candidates is that I’m an organizer. We’ve built up the biggest national campaign amongst all leadership candidates, the most number of volunteers, the most fundraising, the most new member sign ups, the most campaign offices opened - so we’re doing everything in a way that shows why our campaign, and me as an organizer are the better team to mobilize Canadians. That’s something that I offer. In the beginning, I said I would be the growth candidate, I will grow the party, engage as many people possible, make people feel included, and build up a system around that. I’ve shown so far that we’ve been able to do that. I feel like that’s my unique proposition.
Question: How do you think the NDP could have gained more seats in 2015?
Answer: I think it just came down to the campaign didn’t have an emotional connection with the electorate. People didn’t feel emotionally connected and as a result didn’t come out to vote. The contrast was that there was a strong emotional connection to the Liberal campaign. Trudeau created a very strong emotional connection, and that engaged and inspired more people. Secondly, there was a perception that the NDP was not left and that perception was a very emotional perception, it was a feeling. So, it wasn’t as based on objective platform pieces - we had pharmacare which was very progressive, daycare which was very progressive, talked about repealing C-51 which was very progressive – all of our concrete offers, if you compare civil liberties as NDP vs. Liberal, we would win on that. Objectively we had something progressive, but the feeling was that people didn’t really feel that and I think that’s what was missing.
Question: On the list of practical things that were very progressive and traditionally on the left end of the spectrum, one that I didn’t call out was economic policy, which arguably, in the last federal election, was perhaps to the right of centre.
Answer: I would say that was probably the biggest mistake -this idea of balancing budgets. Normally, the idea of balancing the budget in past elections is seen as being fiscally responsible, seen as being able to manage the economy because balancing budgets or not, in of itself, isn’t right or left wing. It’s what you do with it. If you balance the budget by cutting services, cutting benefits to people, that’s very right wing. If you balance budgets so that we can reduce debt and provide more social programming, like Tommy Douglas did, he balanced budgets to bring in national healthcare, he balanced budgets to bring universal provincial health care, so he actually balanced budgets to control the debt so that he can implement a massive new program in social spending for social programs. That’s very progressive. It depends what you do with it but at the end of the day what happened was with all sorts of austerity happening with different provinces, there was a strong sentiment that balancing the budget in of itself just meant austerity, and that was a massive mistake by the federal NDP.
Question: When you spoke about the emotional connection, in what space do you feel the NDP could have made that emotional connection?
Answer: Well, you could talk about something like pharmacare, and say it’s a socially progressive leftist thing, pharamcare is great, but what does that really mean to me, that just sounds like words. However, if you connect it to the fact that there are people in this country right now who can’t afford medication, they get so ill that they go an emergency room where they get free medical care, they get released and they’re better, only to be released again because they can’t afford the medicine they need. There’s a significant proportion of the population who can’t afford the medicine they need and we can actually make sure they are able to afford it; probably the best program we can deliver at a federal level, is national pharmacare. You can use the buying power of Canada to buy medication and ensure people get it for free. It’s actually proven to reduce healthcare costs, because you can cure people or maintain their chronic illnesses and it doesn’t require extreme surgeries or extreme medical intervention - it actually makes sense and would undo this horrible unfairness in the system where you get really sick before you get care. If you convey that story, there’s ways of conveying that really emotional story, depicting someone through a video, and this makes people go “this is such a messed-up system, we need to fix that”. I think this story, if I just say universal pharmacare, it doesn’t really mean anything to me, but if I tell the story, and tell a specific story of people I met, it becomes so personal.
Question: In regards to your policy platform, what are the three most significant policies in your campaign?
Answer: Poverty is something I really think is offensive to me - people live in poverty in a country as rich as ours, a phenomenally wealthy country – we shouldn’t have anyone living in poverty. Therefore, I proposed an income security plan, fully funded plan, by where we address poverty by certain demographics. So, seniors, there’re 11% of seniors living in poverty, the most impacted are women, and we can actually fully fund a program to give a basic income guarantee to seniors. It would involve enhancing the OAS, which is a good program, but doesn’t have enough for people to live with dignity, at even the maximum amount, which is $1,500 dollars approximately a month, is not enough for someone to live with respect and dignity. I’m proposing a plan, which will enhance OAS by getting rid of some corporate tax credits and consolidating them and putting them into OAS which would increase the amount by three to four times, so that those who need this relief most would get it immediately. I’ve also proposed basic incomes guarantee for Canadians with disabilities, so people who are most hard hit will get a basic income, so they would be able to live with dignity, and then a supplement for Canadians living and working who’re living in poverty even though they’re working. There’s a supplement I’m proposing to lift them out of poverty. I’ve coupled that with a better jobs agenda about how we cannot just supplement people in poverty but work towards creating jobs that are better paying and one of the key things that we’re seeing as a trend, it’s very popular in Ontario, people talk about precarious employment, but there’s one type of unstable employment which is working with (work free temp job agencies), which are growing massively, and people are working for agencies, for young people, for racial people, for young women as well, it’s the only way to find a job. You go through an agency and they claw back almost 40% of your salary. You can’t get hired directly and there’s a penalty fee that the client company has to pay to the agency that hired the employer or employee directly. You don’t get the same benefits, there’re all sorts of things. I proposed a plan to tackle all that, and make sure there’s more stability in jobs.
And thirdly, I have a really aggressive and really exhaustive climate change plan, talking about how we can tackle climate change with leaders in the country. The plan tackles a transition where we tackle provinces that are very reliant on resource extraction, to have an economy that’s more diversified, more sustainable, that doesn’t depend on the ups and downs of a commodity market, that’s more stable and reliable. We are proposing a plan that actually supports workers and creates a transition.
I said four pillars in my launch speech and the only pillar that’s missing is talking about indigenous issues but specifically electoral reform. I think electoral reform is probably the single biggest change we can bring in, specifically proportional representation and this would forever get rid of the fear of strategic voting - it would forever get rid of the fear of a party winning only 40% of the vote and getting 100% of the power. People are not as worried about it now with someone like Trudeau who the New Democratic voters initially didn't think was so bad but when someone like Harper came in and you had people who voted NDP and Liberal making up 60% of the voted and then saying "even though we're 60% of the voting percentage, the person that got 40% has all the power and the majority and can do things that contravene the opinions of 60% of Canadians." This scenario would never happen again if we had proportional representation.
Question: Do you have a specific solution? Is it proportional representation through rank-ballot that some parties...
Answer: Definitely not rank-ballot. Rank ballot does not reflect a true proportionality with respect to what people want. If you rank ballot it’s still not going to give a true sentiment to the diversity of opinion. It just consolidates the opinion instead of giving a voice to different people. Many developed nations have some level of proportionality in their voting, us and the States don't have any. I would say proportionality with some regional lists to ensure that there is some regional representation as well is a system that I like. We have not proposed our exact solution yet but this will be our general theme of it: proportional representation with a regional list so that there is lists that people can vote that can allow people to have a representative from their community or area who gets your area so you feel confident in them - but also if 30% of people want to vote Conservative the Conservatives will get 30% of the seats as opposed to first past the post which skews that.
Question: There is variation as to what that practical solution looks like. From the feedback that we've heard people are very interested in electoral reform and there continues to be a lack of confidence around any of the options that people have heard about so it will be very welcome to hear that. And maybe electoral reform will be one of the things that you list in the next question which is, since the Liberals were elected in 2015, what have they done right and what have they done wrong?
Answer: I'll say what they've done right is that they've created this sentiment where diversity is not under attack like it seemed to be under Harper where there was a sentiment - a feeling - that people are being targeted for their beliefs and made it seem like something is wrong with you. The way policies were framed like the Barbaric [Cultural] Acts policy, two-tier citizenship, C-51 was all sending this message. Tthe Trudeau government gives a sentiment that people are accepted which is powerful in and of itself. But where he failed or the Liberals are failing is that the sentiment is created but not the policy. The sentiment is great but then the policy would be to repeal C51. A whole group of experts, legal experts, have looked at this [C51] ... it is just flawed. There is no way to remedy it. Past judges, past Prime Ministers, we had environmentalists, activists, artists, all these people - a massive coalition - come together and say this needs to be repealed. He didn't do that. But never promised he would do it either - but it should have been done.
Promises made, electoral reform is big, a top one, that was not dealt with and should have been. People really believed in it and wanted it. The reason being given now most recently as I saw in an article is that he was hoping for rank ballot and since the public are more interested in proportional representation, he's abandoning it. Which is to say, the people want something, they don't want what I want, so I'm going to abandon my promise. Which is not democratic and horrible if that's truly the reason. It seems like someone didn't tell him what to say - he just spoke his mind which is fair but that's a really bad reason and it's pretty offensive.
One of the other things that he promised was reconciliation that was a key piece. One of the things that if you make a promise where you don't know the scenario - I make a promise I will spend $10 billion dollars on some sort of strategy and you go look at the financials and notice that the $10 billion aren't there and you can’t make the promise, that’s not the worst type of broken promise. You didn't know about the financial situation, you looked at it and then realized you can’t make the promise. But if you seek reconciliation as the key promise and the human rights commission says indigenous children should get equitable funding and then you don’t say 'oops I forgot' – instead, you get a memo and sign off as Justin Trudeau to send lawyers to fight with indigenous to say 'no you don't deserve to get equitable funding'. Now there are four compliance orders from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that’s pretty significant – it’s not nuancing, it says indigenous children should get equitable funding. We order you to comply with this and then you send lawyers saying no, saying ‘I'm going to fight the court’. He spent the whole campaign saying reconciliation will be the biggest part of his agenda. That's super offensive.... Principled broken promises as opposed to discrete financial broken promises like "I'll build this high speed train but I can't because there is no approval", that’s a different type of broken promise. Changing the electoral system won't cost us anything, making sure indigenous children get their equitable funding is just pretty basic thing. These are heinous broken promises.
Question: Let's zoom out a little, we talked about Canada, lets shift our attention to Canadian opinions in a global context. Looking at what's happening south of the border, what do you think of an administration and its current immigration policies - including the travel ban while simultaneously inking multibillion arms deals with Muslim majority countries that have atrocious human rights records.
Answer: I called out after Trump was elected and soon after the Muslim Ban. I called out in the legislative assembly that we should call out when we see something wrong. It was clear Trump's campaign was xenophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic, his policies are all this. I called it out and this is what we have to do, even if we have trading relations. We have to denounce these type of policies that build an environment of hate because hate is not isolated. Once you allow for hate to grow against any community, it creates a climate for hate to grow, spread and create a fire that will impact all communities. It's not acceptable to allow this behaviour to exist and it needs to be called out immediately. It's damaging otherwise.
Question: Calling out is important and we can see this intolerance growing not just here but also in the refugee crisis in Europe and the reactions from the international community, you see Brexit, a rise in racial tension - even just Charlottesville - and this unbelievable escalation between the US and North Korea. There is a growing sense of fear mongering and alienation between people. What do you see as Canada's role in that global context?
Answer: It highlights how important our leadership role is. Internationally, we can be a country that talks about how immigration isn't something we do simply out of a moral obligation - which is a good thing to do. But we actually celebrate it as the foundation of our economy. Our economy requires immigration, we need it, it’s an economic benefit, we celebrate it not only for its richness that it gives to a country but we need it. We're in a unique position because our success as a G7 country - we are in the position we are in because of immigration. That's a unique proposition compared to other countries who don't need immigration at the same level. And we probably need to increase immigration significantly in Canada looking at the Asian population and the reducing birth rat - we probably have to look at significant increasing immigration. We have a model of not requiring people to give up their identity but to celebrate who they are. Our country is stronger because we have unique views and experiences and we share these with the broader community and we all benefit from it.
We're a living testament to the strength and power of immigration. We can provide great evidence as to how well our cities work with such diverse population. We can talk about how things are going well and even how we can improve but we can be an example to the world.
Question: Are you concerned that in the current climate seeking to take a role where we talk about those issues that we believe socially are important to us could affect our economic prosperity as a nation?
Answer: I think you have to be willing to take on obstacles or difficulties if you want to make a positive impact on the world, on your country, on your city. You can't shy away from doing things that are difficult; doing the right thing isn't always easy so you can’t be afraid of that. But I think at the same time we should be confident. There are certain things we have that other economies need. Even now on the soft wood deal for example, it’s now coming out that the construction industry in the US is suffering and they need the Canadian wood. We are in a better position than we think. We think we are captive to the American market but the American market has been developed to rely a lot on what we provide. Internationally, the same thing will apply. We need to seek out new trading partners and develop partnerships - but we also need to be confident in what we can provide. We have a great climate in terms of our human rights if any nation wants to have fair trade, we have resource extraction in the safest and most environmentally friendly way as opposed to other nations that have less environmental protection and less protection for workers. At the end of the day we are still a significant player in the world.
Question: You've spoken previously about the rise of hate crimes in Canada, of all types. We've seen your stance on M103. Do you think Islamophobia specifically is a problem in Canada?
Answer: Yes it is. We need to name it too, really important to name it specifically. There is power to naming an injustice. One of the first steps of tackling an injustice is to give it a name. And that's why I really believe in things like naming anti-black racism specifically. Anti-black racism interestingly enough impacts not just the black community but this notion of darkness and colour tone as something we can relate to in South Asian communities as well. There is a clear anti-black discrimination there as well. Naming it is important. Black lives matter is important. Naming it as a movement and saying that black lives do matter... you're given so much rhetoric and clear evidence to the contrary where its shown that black lives don't matter. We need to actually speak out against it. And it’s similar with Islamophobia. I can tell you its real because as bearded turban man the perceptions of what I am - my best friend is a Lebanese Muslim man but Lebanese people as you know are often light skin, light hair, light eyes so he never got called anything Islamophobic whereas I got the 'Oh that Muslim terrorist' and he would always feel bad because I'm not even Muslim. As a Sikh I know the right answer isn't to say, “I'm not a Muslim but it’s to say that hate is wrong”. It's one of those interesting scenarios because even though I'm not Muslim I experience Islamophobia on a day-to-day basis, maybe even more than someone who is Muslim because of my visible look.
Question: So you have a personal awareness of the issue. Given that awareness, potentially as prime minister, what practical steps would you take to protect other mosques in Canada from experiencing the tragedy we felt in Quebec?
Answer: First just take a moment and reflect on how heinous the attack was to attack someone in a place of prayer, a place where you're going to search for peace and attacking someone for their faith is heinous wherever it happens. A similar thing happened to a Sikh community in Wisconsin in the States where a gunman walked into a Gurdwara and opened fire and killed 11 people. Again, in solidarity, I know what that feels like. I went to Wisconsin after it happened. I reached out to my good friends in Quebec after and said, 'I know what that feels like' and I remember people reached out to me and made me feel that people were out there on my side and cared. I come from that perspective, understanding it in an authentic way.
What we can do is we know that certain communities have gone through this and we can learn from their experiences and how they dealt with it. We know the Jewish community in synagogues have dealt with ongoing security risks. We can look at what policies and security measures work. The culture shift is - imagine a person that has a perception, people think of me as the other; as a Muslim, as someone who has experienced islamophobia speaking about how we can make Canada more just, more inclusive, how we can create more jobs, how we can tackle climate change. Seeing someone talk about positive messages day in day out will have a significant impact. My existence will - not to big up myself too much - but there will be a positive impact. People will see a bearded turban guy saying we got to make sure Canadians are taken care of, that Canadians workers are getting taken care of. Canadian workers will feel that the bearded turban guy is talking to them about their rights and their issues and he gets it. That will be culture shifting and we'll be able to do good work and make Canada a better place. The culture shift also has to come from an appreciation of the value every person brings that comes to Canada. Things like Islamic Heritage Month, we need to see this as an active celebration to celebrate the contributions from different members of our society. Celebrating the contributions so that people are aware that our country was built on contributions from Muslims and other different communities whether they be Sikh or Hindu or Jewish but celebrating the contributions gives people the sense that our country has been built up and is in a better place because of the communities that have come here. I think celebration is a power tool to combat hatred. Seems odd to fight strong hate crimes but the deeper culture shift comes when people see the benefit that happens as a result of different people being in our society.
Question: There are over one million Muslims in Canada today. As a result, Canadian Muslims make up a significant portion of constituencies across the GTA and Canada. By 2030, it is expected that Canadian Muslims will make up close to 7 per cent of the country’s total population. In previous Federal elections, Muslim voter turnout was around 45%. However, the community was much more engaged in 2015 with a groundbreaking 79% voter turnout. Given the increasing level of engagement within the Canadian-Muslim community, what will you do to appeal to this growing and dynamic demographic group?
Answer: There is something that politicians do for engagement. The first step of outreach is showing up, which is great. The next step, what really excites people, is having policies that address the concerns of people and following through with those policies. So that's something that we should do, and that's the next step. The first step is showing up - going to a Mosque. The second step would be proposing a 'Securing Places of Worship Act', some kind of act or policy or piece of legislation to secure and protect people in places of prayer. Once you figure out what people's concerns are and then propose solutions, that’s the next level of engagement. In terms of a practical solution, there needs to be an acknowledgement of diversity and the creation of safe spaces. I try to create spaces and hold events in alcohol free spaces. I also see why - for spiritual and family reasons - spaces of alcohol can be uncomfortable. Now if you go to a political event its often a wine and cheese. As an aspiring vegan and someone who doesn't drink, it's not a very welcoming space. We need to be more aware of creating spaces that make people feel more included. On the campaign, I've always encouraged vegetarian and alcohol free spaces because vegetarian food is inclusive - it's considered halal, kosher, welcomes the Hindu community and Sikh community and all communities, there are no aversions to vegetarian food. Something as subtle as having the right type of food to make everyone feel included and ‘welcome’ is the mentality I would bring to the table. You make spaces more inviting to different people understanding the dietary and other restrictions. he final piece would be staffing - when you have people from the community that is a community of engagement or a community that is important for outreach, you'll have a deeper understanding of the issues.