Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Canadians in UAE prepare to vote in election marred with scandals

From blackface to dual citizenship scandals, the road to Canada’s coming federal election has been one of the most eventful in recent times

Dr Sara Farhan, associate professor at the American University of Sharjah, will vote in this year's Canadian elections. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dr Sara Farhan, associate professor at the American University of Sharjah, will vote in this year's Canadian elections. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Canadians living in the UAE will go to the polls this week to vote in an election plagued by blackface and dual citizenship scandals.

On Monday, voters will decide whether to give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party four more years in office.

Six main political parties are vying for power but the election has boiled down to a two-horse race between the Liberals and the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau’s appalling blackface photos and videos highlighted the contradictions of his image as an anti-racist leader

Dr Sara Farhan, American University of Sharjah

Before this year, Canadians who had lived outside their home country for longer than five years were banned from voting.

Canadians in the UAE said they were divided on who was best to lead the country but most agreed that the most important issue was Canada’s budget and economy.

“There are other important issues like healthcare, climate change and education but without a sound economy we can’t afford to pay for any of that stuff,” says Jayson Ingram, a military pilot from Saskatchewan who has been living in Dubai for the past nine years.

Jamie Armstrong left Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, two years ago to work as a pilot in the UAE.

He said the taxes introduced by Mr Trudeau’s government reduced the quality of life for his family back home, who live in rural areas.

“Life in Canada is getting expensive," he said.

“Of course we have to do our best to be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to accomplish that by attempting to tax into prosperity.”

Dr Sara Farhan, an assistant professor in the Department of International Studies at the American University of Sharjah, said that, while Canada’s economy was growing under Mr Trudeau’s leadership, many Canadians continue to live pay-cheque-to-pay-cheque.

“Canadian households are increasing their debts with nearly 15 per cent of average household income allocated to debt-repayment,” she said.

Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer take part in a federal political leaders debate in Quebec, Canada, on October 10. Adrian Wyld /  EPA
Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer clash in a debate in Quebec on October 10. Adrian Wyld / EPA

“Under the Liberal government, Canada’s economic growth had limited impact on Canadians. Simply put, very few Canadians have profited off the Liberal economic policies and as a result many feel stuck in their current predicament.”

She said Mr Scheer and his Conservative Party’s economic platform would undo the policies of the Liberals by repealing tax increases on small-business investment.

“In both contexts, the vagueness undermines the leaders of these parties as many Canadians are confused about the direction of the economy,” said Dr Farhan.

While economic policy is a crucial factor for Canadians in the emirates as they vote, the numerous scandals that have marred the front-runners do not seem to be harming their chances.

Mr Trudeau and Mr Scheer have had their fair share of controversies on the campaign trail.

Mr Trudeau’s popularity took a hit this year with the SNC-Lavalin affair, a scandal involving the prime minister "improperly" intervening in a criminal case against a Quebec-based construction company.

Last month a series of pictures and videos showing Mr Trudeau, who is seen as a champion of minority rights, wearing blackface were widely published.

“Trudeau’s appalling blackface photos and videos highlighted the contradictions of his image as an anti-racist leader,” said Dr Farhan.

“Although Canadians were shocked and appalled by these revelations, the economic, education, and environmental concerns supersede these scandals.”

Other expatriates agreed.

“If you take the things anybody has done or said many years ago you would find that most of people have done something silly or inappropriate that they would regret,” said Julia Ridley, a gym teacher and coach from Toronto who has lived in Dubai for 18 years.

“Blackface is a non-issue for me — it’s a dumb thing that he shouldn’t have done and he acknowledges it.”

Meanwhile Mr Scheer found himself in hot water this month after it was revealed he was a dual citizen and held an American passport. It was something the Conservative leader, who used to be Speaker of the House, had accused political rivals of in the past.

Again, voters said they did not see it as a deal breaker.

“Lots of people hold dual citizenship but it doesn’t mean that they are any less Canadian,” said Mr Ingram.

“In his case he was born and raised in Canada and I believe he has the best interest of the country at heart. Plus, he is also renouncing his US citizenship.”

Relations between the UAE and Canada could also be effected the outcome of the election.

Dr Farhan said that if a minority Liberal government under Mr Trudeau was elected, UAE-Canada relations would likely flourish.

“The Liberals will aim to strengthen Canada’s position in the global economy by reinforcing existing relations,” she said.

“While these relations were nurtured under the current government, the UAE’s presence in Canada transcends federal politics and is engaged with provincial and local level communities.”

This summer, the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi announced a partnership with the Alberta Academic Institute.

It was one of the many examples of how Mr Trudeau’s government has been supporting the UAE’s long-term goals when it comes to commerce and industry.

According to figures from the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, commercial trade between the two countries totalled close to Dh7.8 billion last year.

Dr Farhan said it was likely that, under a minority Liberal government, these trends would continue.

Updated: October 20, 2019 11:48 AM

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