By TOM GODFREY
The voting at a Toronto polling station where I volunteered to help last week for the provincial elections was brisk and consistent.
There were a few slow periods during the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. shift during lunch and dinner times, but overall the large hall was never empty.
A polling station is a great place to learn about democracy and what it means to some people who have fought or are still fighting for a free vote.
I was amazed by the flow of new Canadians, of all nationalities, who were casting ballots. There were many cases of parents bringing their teens to get registered to cast their first ballot.
Voters were generally pleasant and excited with nearly all of them knowing beforehand exactly which candidate on the voter’s list they were supporting.
Some voters, for identification purposes, showed their Canadian citizenship cards, with one African man proudly displaying the document that was still guarded in plastic and appeared to have never been used.
One Middle Eastern woman with kids in tow was thankful that it took less than 10 minutes to cast her ballot.
“I just came back from holidays and on a good day it takes six hours to vote over there,” the woman said, adding voters can wait for more than 12 hours to exercise their right.
There were seniors in military uniforms being pushed in wheelchairs and many others using strollers or canes who arrived in their finest attire to choose a leader.
This election more than half of us voted. Some 52.1 per cent of Ontario’s 9.2 million eligible voters cast ballots, compared to 48.2 per cent in the 2011 elections, officials said, adding that 4.8 million of us in total voted.
The sweep by the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne led to more female MPPs, from 30 to 38, being elected in the 107 ridings. The Liberals took 58 seats, compared to the Tory’s 28 and 21 for the NDP.
Some 16.8 per cent, or 11 of the elected MPPs, are visible minorities, and include incumbents Mitzie Hunter, Michael Coteau, Bas Balkissoon and Harinder Takhar among others.
The political landscape is changing with now one of every five Canadians identifying themselves as a visible minority, according to a Statistics Canada 2011 survey.
The survey said the three largest visible minority groups in 2011 were South Asians, Chinese and Blacks, who accounted for 61.3 per cent of the visible minority population.
They were followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese.
It said the vast majority, or 85 per cent of visible minorities in Ontario, lived in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Markham.
In Brampton Liberal newcomers Vic Dhillon and Amrit Mangat were elected in results that reflect the ethnic composition of that city.
The survey said Markham had the highest proportion of visible minorities, who accounted for 73 per cent of the population. Visible minorities made up 66.4 per cent of Brampton’s population, 53.7 per cent of Mississauga’s and 49.1 per cent of the population of Toronto.
No wonder Liberal veteran Michael Chan was easily returned in Markham-Unionville by the large number of Chinese residents who turned out to vote.
The survey said about 53.1 per cent of Canada’s Blacks were foreign-born and came to live here as immigrants. Of these about 23.5 per cent arrived between 2006 and 2011 and the top three countries of birth were Haiti, Nigeria and Jamaica.
All this leads us to candidates running for the Toronto mayor’s office this October, who should take notice of the changing face of our voters and tweak their platforms accordingly.