Canada: New political party for Chinese immigrants
British Columbia's newest political party has bold plans, a platform still to be worked on and its four founders keen to make an impression on voters – those who can speak Chinese, at least.
The Nation Alliance Party is believed to be the first party formed based on ethnicity. Its mission statement in Chinese on its website is to "create better living and working conditions for immigrants and raising the profile of all Chinese living overseas."
At a press conference to unveil the party, attended by a dozen journalists, party leader Weiping Chen, who originally hails from Beijing, said first-generation immigrants face challenges that the other political parties have failed to address.
"It's not only about jobs but many other supports that immigrants need that they're not getting from the government," Chen said in Mandarin. Many immigrants arrive in Canada with master's degrees and can only find work in convenience stores, he said.
Chen, who came to Canada eight years ago and was educated in Australia, works in the real estate business. He said he had never belonged to a political party in China. While major parties have Chinese candidates, Chen said they do not fully represent the views of immigrants.
Another party founder, Locan Wang, a business student at Simon Fraser University, said he wanted to get involved in the political process because there was little for young people and even less for newcomers. A landed immigrant, he arrived from China four years ago.
"I see this as one opportunity for young people my age, 21, to just devote my time to learning about government and giving all my skills to the party so we can try to have better connections," he said.
While political commentator Gabriel Yiu, a candidate for the provincial NDP in the past, said it's encouraging to get more immigrants involved in the political process, he sees no need for a specific party.
"We're talking about 2007. No matter what level of government, they listen to our voices. There is no political party that is not listening," he said. "A race-based political party having any success in political election is almost zero."
Political scientist Michael Byers, academic director for the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, said forming a party is an extremely effective way for the group to attract attention to community concerns.
"The mainstream parties have not been ignoring the importance of the minority vote, especially in large cities like Toronto and Vancouver," he said. "This is a clever move to attract more attention to this community's concern and that's entirely fair and what politics is about. The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
The Nation Alliance Party is trying to get more members. Chen, the party leader, said it's important to get word out that the party has formed and the next step will be to put together a platform and attract candidates. The goal, he said, is eventually to become a federal party as well as a provincial one.
Chinese Canadian National Council executive director Victor Wong said the new party is "an indictment" of mainstream parties that have not been inclusive enough, but the NAP is "too narrow" to have any real impact.
He said there are more than 1.1 million people of Chinese origin living in Canada.
Political party to focus on Chinese