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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Defeated Tory candidate leaves gov’t advisory job

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Saulie Zajde

MONTREAL — After weeks of controversy, defeated Mount Royal Tory candidate Saulie Zajdel suddenly left his job as a regional adviser for the Conservative government last week.

Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler had accused Zajdel of acting as his “shadow MP” and working to undermine him while on the public payroll.

Zajdel was appointed in September as a regional adviser for community outreach and relations. He worked under Industry Minister Christian Paradis, the minister responsible for the Montreal region, and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore.

He described the job at the time as connecting principally with the anglophone and ethnic communities and municipalities to see if they can benefit from various federal programs.

Zajdel was present in November when Paradis announced an unprecedented grant of more than $763,000 to kashrut certification agencies in Canada to enhance food safety for a program administered by Montreal’s Vaad Ha’ir.

“I was tired of being this distraction” and quit for the good of the Conservative party, Zajdel told a Montreal radio station April 4. He also said he felt insulted by being called a shadow MP.

Zajdel, who served on Montreal city council and its executive committee for 25 years, vigorously contested the Mount Royal seat and came within 2,200 votes of beating Cotler in what has long been a safe Liberal riding.

Israel became a central issue in Zajdel’s campaign among Jewish voters, and Cotler objected to being targeted as part of the Conservatives’ portrayal of the Liberals as less sympathetic to the Jewish state than the Tories.

After the May election, Zajdel said he would be running again in the riding. He said last week that he would still like to be the Conservative candidate in Mount Royal, if the party wants him.

Last month, Moore defended Zajdel’s hiring, saying his duties were “not political at all. There’s no political involvement. It’s entirely a ministerial staff function.”

In addition to serving as a liaison to cultural communities, Zajdel’s municipal experience made him well suited to helping organize Ottawa’s participation in Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations in 2017, Moore said.

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