MONTREAL — Lawrence Bergman was given the green light by the Quebec Liberal Party to seek a fifth mandate as the member of the National Assembly for D’Arcy McGee.
Bergman, now in his 14th year in office, was unopposed for the nomination and was confirmed at a riding association meeting last week held at Congregation Adath Israel Poale Zedek Anshei Ozeroff in Hampstead, where he is a past president.
Bergman has now surpassed the time Victor Goldbloom represented the still predominantly Jewish riding from 1966-79.
Bergman received a resounding endorsement from Steven Cummings, a past president of Federation CJA, who called him a worthy “spokesman and advocate for the Quebec Jewish community.”
John Parisella, a volunteer adviser to Premier Jean Charest, also indicated that Bergman may not be shut out of the cabinet much longer.
Bergman, 67, was revenue minister from 2003, when the Liberals returned to power after nine years of Parti Québécois rule, until last year’s election, which reduced the Liberals to a minority government.
Cummings, co-chair of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy and a prominent supporter of the party, pointed to Bergman’s sponsorship 10 years ago of the province’s official commemoration of Yom Hashoah, and to his spearheading of a unanimous resolution this spring congratulating the State of Israel on its 60th anniversary and recognizing its democratic and Jewish character.
Cummings said Bergman performed admirably during his time in cabinet, and noted that the Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil named Bergman as one of the top ministers in Charest’s inner circle.
“No one better exemplifies the nobility of service to the community than Lawrence. He is a gentleman of the highest integrity, offering tireless, and often, thankless service.
“Politics is a rough sport, but at all times he has held his head high and always made us proud…We are blessed to have such a mensch serve us for another term.”
An audience member remarked that Bergman has also been a good friend of the Muslim community and that it is appreciated.
Bergman is virtually assured of being re-elected, since D’Arcy McGee is one of the safest Liberal seats (with the exception of the time it was represented by Robert Libman, leader of the anglo-rights Equality Party), and Bergman has enjoyed majorities in the 90 per cent range.
In reply to a question from The CJN on whether dropping Bergman, an able fundraiser, from the cabinet has affected the Jewish community’s financial contribution to the party, Parisella, the guest speaker at the meeting, said, “I simply say be patient. Lawrence’s talent and the respect he receives favours his eventual return.”
A minority government translated into a smaller cabinet, Parisella said, and “choices had to be made. My sense is there’s always another time.”
Parisella said he doesn’t have any figures on the latest Jewish contribution to the Liberals, but he added that “I hope the community’s participation in the party is seen as more than dollars and cents.
“The needs of the Jewish community are of concern to everyone and has nothing to do with its financing of the party in power. I know our government cares,” he said.
Parisella, who was chief of staff to premiers Robert Bourassa and Daniel Johnson Jr., said he believes that even without Jewish representation in the cabinet, the community is still being heard “by the highest levels of government” and that Bergman has access to the premier and “a way of getting things done.”
Bergman publicly expressed his shock and disappointment when he lost his cabinet post, and many in the Jewish community were troubled that a Liberal premier had broken with a tradition going back to 1970.
Parisella revealed that the premier affectionately refers to the D’Arcy McGee MNA as “the Bergmanator.”
He earned that nickname because Charest credits him for setting in motion events that led to PQ leader Lucien Bouchard’s resignation in January 2001. The month earlier Bergman had tabled the motion censuring Yves Michaud, a PQ stalwart, for his remarks about the voting patterns of D’Arcy McGee, and Jews in particular. This provoked a split within the PQ on its tolerance and Bouchard’s dramatic departure.
Bergman had good news for Quebecers who go south for the winter. A bill that will make snow tires mandatory has been reworded to shorten the applicable period.
The proposed legislation originally stated that the tires would have to be on from Nov. 15 to April 30.
Due to lobbying from the many “snowbirds” in D’Arcy McGee and elsewhere, and the intervention of Bergman, who chairs the transportation committee, that has been changed to Dec. 15 to March 15.
Sid Margles, co-president of the Canadian Club at Century Village in Deerfield, Fla., said the members typically head south for American Thanksgiving in late November and come back by Passover. “I haven’t put on snow tires in eight years,” Margles said.
Bergman said his political career has been guided by an experience he had while campaigning for the first time in 1994 door-to-door. “One elderly lady clutched my hand and said, ‘I give you power of attorney to represent me in Quebec City… Today I stand with humility and a sense of thankfulness for your once again nominating me.”