Canadian party leaders reach out for ethnic Chinese, Indian votes

10:40, April 25, 2011      

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Canadian Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper (R) shakes hands with a supporter at a rally during a campaign stop in Mississauga, Canada, April 23, 2011. Harper was on a campaign trip for the 41st federal election set on May 2.(Xinhua/Jason Ransom)

by Mark Bourrie, Zhang Dacheng

With just one week to go until election day, the leaders of the three main national political parties sought to win the votes of Canada's ethnic minorities on Sunday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, courted Chinese-Canadian voters in the Pacific coast city of Vancouver.

Harper visited a Chinese evangelical Christian church in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. There, he offered Easter greetings and heard a pastor asks God to erect a "wall of protection" around the Conservative leader to guard him from "evil."

The Burnaby area has a large number of Chinese-Canadians, many of them recent immigrants from Hong Kong.

Harper told about 130 Chinese-Canadians that he offers "a steady hand, a plan that is working, affordable commitments and a pledge to keep taxes down. That's the prudent course for these times, and it is exactly what you can expect from our government."

He said Canadian prosperity is "due in no small part to the energies, ideas and global perspectives brought to our country by immigrants from the world over.

"And I tell people, whenever I come to this region, that energy and entrepreneurship is very evident in the Greater Vancouver area. It's part of what makes Canada so dynamic and such a beacon of hope to the world."

Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff spent much of Sunday, the 30th day of the campaign, trying to win the support of the Sikh community in Canada's largest city, Toronto. There are about 800,000 Sikhs in the greater Toronto area, a region of four million people.

Ignatieff said recent polls that show his support dwindling have not made him depressed.

"I feel as we get down to May 2nd, this is what it's going to come down to: Who do you trust to govern the country?" Ignatieff said. "There's no question people want to change this government. Any way you look at these polls... they're saying we want to get rid of Mr. Harper."

"Now the question becomes: Who can form a government to replace Mr. Harper-that's the issue," he told the media.

During the day, a 30-minute profile of Ignatieff was broadcast by most Canadian television stations as a paid advertisement.

Ignatieff spoke Sunday afternoon at Khalsa Day celebrations at Queen's Park, outside the Ontario provincial parliament building.

Ignatieff and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, who was also campaigning in Toronto, spoke just minutes apart at the event.

"It is a day to acknowledge the incredible role of your community in the building and making and strengthening of Canada," Ignatieff said.

"You've known so much success, but you have also known hardship. There is a bad memory that we all must confront honestly, which is the memory of Komagata Maru (an immigrant ship carrying Sikhs that was turned away from Canada in 1914 and is often cited as an example of discrimination).

"This is a shame upon the history of Canada and it requires an apology in the Parliament of Canada so that we can acknowledge painful failures in the past and move forward together as one great people."

Layton also promised an official apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

"I will not stop until the job is done. I will not stop until justice has spoken," he said. "We will continue to work for your families to be reunited, for the visas to be granted so that you can be together on special occasions with your families ... I will not stop until the contributions of Sikh Canadians are fully honored by this country."

Gilles Duceppe, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which held 49 of the 308 seats in Canada's House of Commons, took the day off the campaign trail. On Monday, he will be joined by former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau in an attempt to boost his poll numbers.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, spent Sunday campaigning in her Pacific Coast constituency of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Harper's Conservative government was defeated on March 25 by the opposition parties in a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons, which found the government in contempt of the parliament.

The parliament was dissolved the following day, and Canada's 41st federal election, the fourth in the past seven years, was slated for May 2.

Source: Xinhua

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