Here is a lesson in democracy for New Canadians: sometimes your vote counts. And sometimes it does not. Like most Asian immigrants, the Chinese of Burnaby, near Vancouver, came to Canada believing it was 'absolutely democratic', says one of their civic leaders. One citizen, one vote - and no more despotism. But nothing is ever that simple. At the heart of this story is a Taiwan-born entrepreneur named Tony Kuo. He wanted a career in politics, but he was running into a brick wall trying to convince Canada's ruling Liberal Party to accept him as a candidate in the next federal election. He had all the right credentials: after getting his Canadian citizenship in 1989, he delivered pizzas, washed dishes, and finally earned his business degree. Now a successful businessman, he had signed up 1,000 new Liberal members in his constituency, launched a web site and asked the party for permission to run as a candidate. It was democracy in action, writ large. But the party did not return his calls. Mr Kuo could not understand it. Then he found out why. The Liberals already had a candidate in mind - a rosy-cheeked, curly-haired party stalwart named Bill Cunningham. And the prime minister, Paul Martin, waltzed into the area to make it official. No nomination meeting, no vote, no democracy: it was a classic case of political 'big-footing' and Mr Kuo was squashed underfoot. His supporters were left shaking their heads. 'They joined the party, paid the fees and thus they should have the right to select their candidate,' one of the Chinese civic leaders said. 'But now somebody tells them: 'we're appointing someone else'. They're confused.' Mr Kuo, however, picked himself up, and called a press conference. 'We beg you to keep this party a free, open democracy ... We ask nothing more, nothing else,' he said, his voice cracking and eyes watering. And then he dropped his bomb. The Liberal Party, he said, was telling immigrants that 'you don't have the intelligence to vote for your candidate'. Then he burst into tears. The performance was completely over the top, but Burnaby's Chinese-Canadian voters (a third of the electorate) knew what he was getting at - racism - and so did millions of Canadians who saw Mr Kuo on the national news. Mr Martin dismissed it as a 'local' matter, but he and the Liberals had been badly stung. The party long identified with multiculturalism now had to answer charges that it was insulting a whole generation of Chinese-Canadians. At the end of the week, Mr Kuo was not taking any more calls from the press. He had made his point, and the Liberal Party was furious. But that is democracy, too.