Twenty-year-old McGill University student Zach Paikin is gearing up for the end of his campaign to become the next national policy chair of the Liberal party, to be chosen at its biennial convention Jan. 13-15.
But while Paikin, the son of Steve Paikin, host of TVOntario’s The Agenda, says he has strived to run a positive campaign, he’s been the subject of an attack from 18-year-old Mount Allison University student Max Naylor, his close friend and the son of University of Toronto president David Naylor.
The younger Naylor published a blog post criticizing what he calls candidate Paikin’s “extreme right wing views,” which he says are a bad fit for the party.
“I don’t have a problem with him running for this position, but if you’re going to be a conservative, you should say that’s what you are,” Naylor said. “He is more right wing than the majority of liberal Canadians, which is reflected time and time again in his writings.”
Paikin is a featured columnist for the right-wing online student newspaper the Prince Arthur Herald and a frequent guest on the Michael Coren Show. He has also spoken out about his strong support for Israel and his belief that the Arab Spring was a “victory for Iran in the Middle East.”
The rivalry between Paikin and Naylor has garnered the attention of major media outlets, and even of Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who tweeted that it was “bulls–t.”
Paikin and Naylor became friends when they were both volunteering for the Young Liberals of Canada in the riding of Toronto-Centre. Naylor maintains that they were exceptionally close and that he knows Paikin better than any of his endorsers or opponents.
On his blog, Naylor criticizes Paikin’s hardline views on the Middle East, his strong support for Israel and what he calls Paikin’s conservative views on the economy and his advocacy of a two-tier health care system.
“Not a lot of people are aware to the extent that he had right-wing views. I’ve seen him do this before, and if we’re going to rebuild the party, he needs to be honest about what he believes in,” Naylor said.
But Paikin counters that in order to bring the Liberal party back to its former glory, new ideas are necessary. “Anyone who goes out there and says we need to adhere to some sort of liberal orthodoxy is out to lunch. What we need is clear, bold ideas. That’s going to require change,” he said.
He has spent the past few months travelling across Canada to find out what change Canadians want to see.
“What struck me the most during the course of my travels is that Liberals across the country share the same values, which is ironic, because the Liberal party is criticized for not knowing what it stands for,” Paikin said.
“I think the Liberal elite don’t know what it stands for, and the time for that is over.” He said his campaign plan focuses on increasing grassroots engagement, reducing obstacles to political involvement and creating a more inclusive party.
“We have inspired a lot of Liberals and have set a clear message to the elite that the grassroots of this party want change and want to embrace a new generation,” he said.
However, Naylor says if Paikin is selected, he will create further divisions within the party. “You can’t bring people together while having views that are going to divide people. He is very public on his hardline views on the Middle East, and he’s said it’s my way or the highway,” Naylor said.
In an interview with CTV, Paikin called Naylor’s blog post childish and full of baseless allegations. Instead, he said he wants to focus on running a positive and progressive campaign. “I don’t let anything get in the way of what needs to be done: bringing Liberals together.”