In reality, none of them had a chance.
Four Jewish candidates ran in last week’s Manitoba provincial election, but even if the Liberals and NDP had been more competitive, it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.
On April 19, the Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Pallister, won in 40 of the 57 province’s ridings in an election that was about change more than anything else. The blue wave swept away the NDP government that had been in office for 17 years, leaving just 14 NDP MLAs.
And even though the Liberal vote actually increased by 50 per cent – to 14 per cent of the total – and the party picked up two additional seats – they have elected only their leader in the past four elections – it was of no benefit to Michael Lazar, the party’s flag-bearer in Tuxedo.
Lazar, a local lawyer who is active in the Jewish community, had unsuccessfully run for provincial office twice before. This time, he had three strikes against him even before voting began.
First, he was running against a longtime incumbent in one of the wealthiest ridings in the province, and one of the three Winnipeg ridings with large Jewish populations. Tuxedo has been a PC stronghold for decades.
Then there was the collapse of the Liberal brand during the campaign. The party went into the election with a new leader, Rana Bokhari, and polling neck and neck with the unpopular NDP. Bokhari, however, came across poorly during the campaign, with a resulting decline in support.
Finally, Lazar joined the race relatively late. “I did as well as could be expected, considering that I was nominated rather late in the day and we were going against a Conservative tide,” he said. “I had a small and dedicated group of people working for me, but we did lack resources and manpower.”
On election night, Lazar finished third with 1,254 votes, 35 votes behind one of the other Jewish candidates, 23-year-old university student Zach Fleisher, who was representing the NDP in the riding.
Fleisher is the former chair of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. He was most recently press secretary to the provincial NDP cabinet. He’s still working toward a degree in political science at the University of Winnipeg.
Fleisher said his goal as a candidate was to protect the legacy of the NDP. He praised the former government’s efforts in health care, education and job creation for young Manitobans like himself.
“I am afraid the PC cutbacks will derail the progress we have made since 1999,” he said.
The other two Jewish candidates were running for fringe parties. Jitendradas Loves-Life (formerly known as Jordan Bellan) is a yoga teacher who ran for the Green Party in the inner city riding of Logan. He didn’t do any campaigning, though.
“I was asked by friends to stand for the Green party,” he said. “I support everything the Green party stands for.”
The fourth Jewish candidate, Matthew Ostrove, ran for the new Manitoba Party, which was founded by disgruntled Liberals who were unhappy with Bokhari. She lost in Fort Rouge, the riding she chose to run in for her first election. Ostrove ran for the Liberals in the 2011 provincial election.
The campaign was free of any controversy where the Jewish community and Israel were concerned.
Speaking for the community, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg CEO Elaine Goldstein said it remains non-partisan.
The former NDP government enjoyed good relations with the community and Israel, and was involved in several joint programs with Israeli organizations and institutions, as was the PC government of Gary Filmon in the 1990s
Of note was the defeat of former NDP cabinet minister Christine Melnick who, although not Jewish, over the years proved to be a good friend of both the community and of Israel, which she has visited several times.