Last week, we examined four “Jewish” battleground ridings, including two – York Centre in Toronto and Mount Royal in Montreal – where, one way or another, a Jewish candidate is likely to win. This week, we look at Jews running for all four major parties across the country.
Jews have served in the House of Commons almost continuously since Harry Nathan Jr., British Columbia’s first MP, represented Victoria from 1871 to 1874.
For decades, Jews have run federally across the political spectrum, and with Jewish Canadians comprising about one per cent of the population nationally, the community certainly punches above its weight when it comes to prominent participation in electoral politics.
Think former Liberal cabinet ministers Robert Kaplan, Irwin Cotler, Barney Danson, Herb Gray and Elinor Caplan. Think David Lewis, the second national leader of the NDP. And think Mulroney-era cabinet minister Gerry Weiner and current Tory MP Joe Oliver, Canada’s first Jewish finance minister.
Who might be the next big-name Jewish MP? Let’s take a look.
Out west, communications strategist Mira Oreck, former Pacific region director of Canadian Jewish Congress and current director of public engagement at the Broadbent Institute, is running for the NDP in Vancouver-Granville. The new, upscale riding was created from five surrounding ones currently represented by MPs from the NDP, Liberals and Tories.
Oreck’s toughest rival appears to be Liberal Jody Wilson-Raybould, a lawyer and former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. If Oreck succeeds, and the NDP wins nationally, look for her to get cabinet consideration.
Also in British Columbia, Frances Litman is running for the Greens in the new Vancouver Island riding of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, where the NDP and Tories are expected to be strong, and Ken Melamed is the Green candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, which went Tory in 2011.
In Edmonton, former MLA, city councillor and 2013 mayoral candidate Karen Leibovici is running for the Liberals in the re-formed riding of Edmonton West. The district historically has gone back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives. It was last held by Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan from 1997 to 2004.
In Winnipeg South Centre, Liberal Jim Carr is facing incumbent Tory MP Joyce Bateman. Carr was a Liberal MLA from 1988 to 1991 and has also been a newspaper columnist and president of the Manitoba Business Council. At a Winnipeg Friends of Israel event earlier this month, he spoke strongly for Israel and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s support for the Jewish State.
In Hamilton Centre, Tory Yonatan Rozenszajn, a 31-year-old lawyer who came to Canada in 1999 from Israel, faces former MPP and provincial cabinet minister Dave Christopherson, who’s held the seat since 2004 and is expected to win again.
In Thornhill, the riding with the highest proportion of Jews in the country, the NDP hopeful is Lorne Cherry. He’ll be in for a tough fight against former broadcaster Peter Kent, who first won in 2008 on the strength of the Tories’ vocal support for Israel.
In the mid-town Toronto riding of St. Paul’s, author Noah Richler, son of late novelist Mordecai Richler, is running for the NDP. He’ll battle with Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett, who has held the seat since 1997.
Elsewhere in Toronto, palliative care doctor Hal Berman is the NDP flag-bearer in York Centre, facing fellow Jews Michael Levitt (Liberal) and MP Mark Adler (Tory), while Dan Stein is running in Davenport for the Greens.
North of Montreal, Sephardi ex-broadcaster Pascal Dery is the Conservative nominee in Drummond, a riding currently held by the New Democrats. She became the Tory candidate after losing the Mount Royal nomination to English rights activist and former MNA Robert Libman.
Finally, Montreal lawyer Rachel Bendayan is running for the Liberals in her party’s former stronghold of Outremont. She’ll have a tough fight against NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
Some of these Jewish candidates have great chances, while others have virtually no hope. But one way or another, all have stepped up, and given the dearth of high-profile names in all the parties, who knows? A few could even turn out to be cabinet material, if the chips fall the right way.
This wRant first appeared as a CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK column in the Aug. 20 Canadian Jewish News.