The Chinese community is not a homogenous blob of voters.
When I heard mayoral candidate Doug Ford’s recent comments about the Chinese community, I found them, in the words of John Oliver, literally unbelievable—as in, I was pretty sure they weren’t based on any facts whatsoever.
Here’s what Doug Ford said, according to City Hall reporters David Nickle and Don Peat:
- The Chinese community wants subways.
- The Chinese community is fiscally conservative, just like the Ford brothers.
- The Chinese community loves the Fords.
That’s a lot of definitive statements about a fairly large group of people. According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 census, the Chinese community in Toronto numbers 486,330—or about 22 per cent of Toronto’s population of visible minorities and 9.5 per cent of its total population.
I wanted to find out from actual members of Toronto’s Chinese community if what Doug Ford said was true. I reached out to as many Chinese professional organizations based in Toronto as I could, as well as to a few student groups at the city’s three universities.
Two of them got back to me in time for deadline: Dr. Chi-Ming Chow, president of the Chinese Canadian Medical Society, Ontario (CCMS), and Gerald Chan, of the Association of Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario (ACCL).
Chow said his organization had not been approached by Doug Ford, and, as far as Chan knew, none of the mayoral candidates had met formally with the ACCL.
When it came to the subject of subways, Chow said he was concerned with issues of cost and population density. “Personally, I am much more in favour of subways, but I know they are very expensive compared to light rail,” said the staff cardiologist from St. Michael’s Hospital. “In Asia, because there’s a lot of people, it makes sense.”
Chow cited the success and popularity of the Mass Transit Railway system in his native Hong Kong—but he also noted that much of the MTR’s ability to continue subsidizing growth and further development was due to its huge acquisitions of real estate in the 1970s. “To do it now would be very challenging,” Chow said.
“The Chinese community is home to a wide range of opinions,” said Chan, lawyer and partner at Ruby, Schiller, Chan and Hasan. “It does a disservice to that diversity if you reduce it to a bumper sticker like ‘We all want subways.'”
Although mayoral candidate John Tory has received two notable endorsements from Toronto’s Chinese community—from Ward 41 city councillor Chin Lee and David Chen, owner of the Lucky Moose Food Market—both men stated that the community hadn’t specifically endorsed any one candidate and was too large and diverse to support generalizations such as those made by Doug Ford. “Support of political candidates is very individual,” Chow said. “It varies how long people have been here, where they come from, and their political views.”
Chan agreed, noting that one of the common misconceptions among politicians and the general population is that Chinese people fit only one narrow, conservative political archetype—one involving concerns related to fiscal issues and low taxes. “[There] are Chinese professionals that fall among the much more progressive end of the spectrum,” he said.
Ultimately, both men stressed that there are many factors that influence a person’s views and political decisions. “I don’t think any one political candidate, political party or even political philosophy should think they have a monopoly on the Chinese community,” Chan said. “These comments are unhelpful.”