MONTREAL — More than 750 people, mostly young adults from Montreal and Ottawa, mingled with over 40 politicians from three levels of government and different parties in the chic atmosphere at the seventh annual Action Party, held by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC).
Federal cabinet ministers Steven Blaney (Public Safety), Pierre Poilievre (Employment and Social Development), Candice Bergen (Social Development) and Maxime Bernier (Small Business and Tourism), as well as former foreign affairs minister John Baird; Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were among the more prominent elected officials attending the event held at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal on May 7.
Trudeau was clearly the most popular when it came to having photographs taken.
From the New Democratic Party were Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre), Ruth Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinongé), Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil-Soulages) and Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine).
CJPAC describes itself as a national, independent, multi-partisan organization. Its mission is to encourage Jewish and other pro-Israel Canadians of all ages to become politically active in the party of their choice. That means not only voting, but also joining parties, working on election campaigns or even running for office.
The Action Party is one way CJPAC tries to build relationships between the community and the political class. Similar bashes are held each year in Toronto.
It’s a relaxed format, free of speeches or other programming. Four TV screens continuously beamed social media messages sent by participants at #mtlaction2015.
But that night was also the fourth game in the Montreal Canadiens second-round playoff series against Tampa Bay, and many focused their attention on the Habs’ staving off elimination with a 6-2 victory.
Making the rounds were the principal candidates in Mount Royal – one of the most-watched federal races in the country – Robert Libman of the Conservatives and Anthony Housefather, also Côte St. Luc mayor, of the Liberals.
Outgoing Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler celebrated his 75th birthday at the party, which wrapped up in the wee hours of May 8.
Among the provincial representatives were Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand and Immigration and Diversity Minister Kathleen Weil.
From the Parti Québécois came Pascal Bérubé (Matane-Matapédia) and and from the Coalition Avenir Québec, Sylvie D’Amours (Mirabel) and Benoît Charette (Deux-Montagnes).
Montreal and suburban politicians were particularly numerous, and those from Montreal included opposition members, among them Mindy Pollak of Outremont and Peter McQueen of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce of Projet Montréal.
The regular guests were also diverse, including members from the Orthodox communities, like Outremont Chassidic activist Mayer Feig, and Yedidya Moryoussef, a young Sephardi community member. The latter said he simply supported CJPAC’s work. His father, Rabbi Haïm Moryoussef, was also glad to have his picture taken with Trudeau as he showed him a copy of his latest book on Jewish thought.
This was the second Action Party for Ariel Shapiro, 22, who just graduated in political science from McGill University and is a bit of a political junkie.
This year, he was among about 50 CJPAC fellows – university students from across the country – who spent a week in Ottawa in October to learn about the political system and how campaigns are run. The fellows are then expected to encourage political engagement among their peers on campus.
Shapiro likes CJPAC because “it brings together two worlds that interest me: politics and the Jewish community. The party is an amazing opportunity to meet politicians.”
As for the pro-Israel dimension, Shapiro said he is a supporter of Israel, but not necessarily of every policy of the government of the day, “just as a I don’t support everything the Canadian government does.”
Jonathan Kalles, CJPAC director for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces said the continued success of the Action Parties is very encouraging. “At a time when political engagement and voter turnout is low, we think the popularity of the parties and other CJPAC programs demonstrates that our community is excited to get actively involved in the 2015 federal election.”