Nov 05, 2014
Karen Bird was recently featured on CBC-Radio's The 180, with regard to the lack of diversity in elected city councils.
Dr. Bird's research shows that visible minority representation is markedly lower at the municipal level compared to the national and provincial levels in Canada. It is also much lower than in many of the larger, highly diverse cities of Europe and the U.S. An important feature of local politics in Canada that appears to depress visible minority representation is the absence of political parties. Parties at the provincial and federal levels engage in strategic outreach to minority and immigrant communities, providing crucial information about political platforms, and mobilizing them to vote as well as affording some influence in candidate selection. Without parties at the local level, it becomes more difficult to channel grassroots organization into political influence. The absence of parties may also depress voter turnout among socio-economically disadvantaged groups, including visible minorities, who may be less likely to be contacted by candidates and face generally greater challenges in accessing political information. To date, little is known about the key factors that influence political knowledge, participation, mobilization capacity, and voter choice among minority communities in the absence of parties, in the Canadian municipal context. To address this gap, Dr. Bird is currently researching the role that candidate ethnicity and gender played in voter choice in the recent Toronto municipal elections.