Even before the election call, Israel has became an issue in the unofficial campaign for the Liberal stronghold of Mount Royal.
Former foreign affairs minister John Baird, an outspoken supporter of the Jewish state, was the guest speaker at a fundraiser for the riding’s Conservative candidate, David Tordjman, on Aug. 29.
Baird charged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has been inconsistent on Israel, saying one thing and doing another. “Israel needs friends on the tough days who stand behind her when she needs help,” said Baird, who today is a member of the boards of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Friends of Israel Initiative.
He said that the Liberal government is on the record as opposing the BDS movement, but continues to fund “organizations that promote and support BDS.” Baird noted that Canada abstained when the United Nations General Assembly condemned the United States for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
He added that former prime minister Stephen Harper ended funding to UNWRA in 2010, over its suspected ties to Hamas. Yet the Liberals reinstated that funding, despite a recent UN report that revealed mismanagement and unethical behaviour within the organization.
The Harper government’s unwavering pro-Israel stance did not prevent Canada from maintaining “phenomenal relationships around the Islamic world,” he continued, but that no longer is the case.
While acknowledging the capability of Foreign Affairs Minister Christia Freeland, Baird said that, “Our foreign policy is a mess everywhere,” and, only half-facetiously, “Our relations with the United States are at their lowest point since the War of 1812.”
Baird characterized the struggle against “radical Islamic extremism” as “the fight of our generation,” comparing it to the fascism that his grandfather battled during the Second World War.
However, as much as he disagrees with Trudeau and the Liberals, Baird said that, “They want to do what is best for the country. I would not like to see what is happening in the U.S., where people hate everybody and want to destroy the other side.”
Baird described Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as “more steak than sizzle,” someone who is “smart, thoughtful, stable, reliable” and has “political skills that should not be under-estimated.”
Asked by on-stage interviewer Tommy Schnurmacher if he might consider a return to politics, Baird, who now works for a Toronto law firm, replied only that, “I’m in full recovery.”
About 200 people attended the event at the Kandy Gallery. Tordjman, a Côte-St-Luc, Que., city councillor, civil engineer and entrepreneur, has the herculean task of trying to turn Mount Royal blue after 80 years of Liberal domination, including 19 years as Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s riding and, more recently, 16 years as Irwin Cotler’s.
Incumbent Anthony Housefather received just over 50 per cent and Conservative challenger Robert Libman got 38 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.
The Conservatives currently have 11 seats in Quebec, but none on the Island of Montreal.
About 30 per cent of Mount Royal’s population is Jewish and that is concentrated in Côte-St-Luc and Hampstead, where the Conservatives captured a majority of polls four years ago.
Tordjman also rapped the Liberals on Israel. “They will spin it how great they have been at the UN. But Canada has abstained on the important votes,” he said, reiterating Scheer’s promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
Tordjman ensured that Israeli wine was served at the event, “to show that no matter where it comes from in Israel, it’s Israeli wine,” an allusion to the recent Federal Court decision, which ruled against West Bank wines being labelled as a “Product of Israel.”
“This government has chutzpah asking for your vote,” said Tordjman. “The prime minister, not once, but twice was found to have made ethics code violations. This is the first time in history.”
On top of that, Trudeau is “spending all your money trying to buy this election,” he said.
Although he is the son of immigrants himself, Tordjman slammed the government for “not following their own rules” on immigration. He said Canada needs immigration, but “there is a proper way to do it.…
“They are not integrating, they can’t find jobs, 20 per cent end up homeless.”
The gathering was also addressed by Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinémas Guzzo and a panellist on the CBC show Dragons’ Den, who is on the Conservative’s Quebec economic advisory team.
He disparaged Trudeau as “our drama teacher prime minister,” and similarly called for the immigration system to be fixed, including putting up a fence at the border, even though he is the son of immigrants, as well.