CJPAC’s Action Party feels less like a political event and more like a fun night out – and that’s exactly the point.
The annual gathering of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, which took place March 6 at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre (a.k.a. the former Maple Leaf Gardens), offers young professionals a chance to mingle with a who’s who of Canadian politics.
“Very few Canadians participate in the political process by joining a party, volunteering on campaigns or supporting candidates,” said Mark Waldman, CJPAC’s executive director. “At Action, we hope to show our community members how easy, accessible and fun becoming engaged in the political process can be.”
Waldman says this year’s party was the best to date, attracting a record sold-out crowd of nearly 1,400 guests. That number included 60 elected officials in addition to candidates.
“We were thrilled to see so many young professionals and elected officials mingling and getting to know each other throughout the evening,” he added.
“Truly, this is what Action is about – building new authentic relationships between community members and political leaders from across the spectrum and deepening existing ones.”
This motto has been drawing politicians of all stripes and levels to CJPAC’s annual shmoozefest for years. This year’s event was no different: Tony Clement, Olivia Chow, Kellie Leitch, Joe Oliver, Mark Adler, Irwin Cotler, Michael Chan, Tim Hudak and Josh Matlow were just some of the MPs, MPPs and city councillors in attendance.
Another notable party guest was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who quickly became the centre of attention and took dozens (if not hundreds) of photos with partygoers. Additionally, the event attracted a number of prominent Toronto mayoral candidates, including John Tory and Karen Stintz.
“The annual Toronto CJPAC Action is a fantastic event that I have attended for years,” Tory said in a statement to The CJN. “It showcases the best and most socially engaged young professionals Toronto has to offer. As a strong supporter of the State of Israel and of Toronto’s vibrant Jewish community, I look forward to the opportunity to engage with the next generation of Toronto’s community leaders.”
Like Tory, Thornhill MP Peter Kent has been attending the Action Party for a number of years.
“All organizations that have serious missions also need to have a social or recreational dimension, and I think that’s exactly what the Action Party is,” Kent told The CJN. “I’ve been to previous events here in Toronto and in Montreal, and it gives people a chance, across partisan lines, to dress up and have a good social evening without getting into the serious, important work that the organization’s main mission is focused on.”
One of the key differences this year was the location; it marked the first time the event was held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The arena provided an ideal space for guests to network and greet one another.
“Our new location is a whole lot better,” said Corbin Seligman, one of the event’s four co-chairs. “Everyone’s in one room rather than being all dispersed.” (The 2013 event was held at the Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto).
Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks from three open bars located throughout the arena, as well as a DJ and a live band.
The party proved to be an ideal event for young professionals such as Adir Krafman, Israel co-ordinator at Hillel of Greater Toronto.
“I’ve met some people that I know and I’m excited to meet some people that I haven’t met yet,” said Krafman, 23. “There’s a great atmosphere and I’m having a great time.”
Waldman says the Action Party is just the beginning. His goal is to continue to engage young Jews through CJPAC’s year-round programming.
“With a federal election in 2015, now is the time for our community to step up and get active,” he said. “This year we want to train more election volunteers and provide more creative programming than ever before.”