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Lieblein: Little to cheer about following the election

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

It’s a good thing the federal election fell on Simchat Torah, or else Canadian Jews would have very little to celebrate.

There’s plenty to kvetch about. If your concerns this election were specifically Jewish – the voting date conflicting with a religious holiday, fliers that tried to polarize the community, candidates with a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel behaviour or the lack of attention paid to Quebec’s Bill 21 – then you got a few comforting words and pledges to do better, but not much else.

If you wanted to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau get his comeuppance, or NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh break through after trying to address racial issues, or evidence that Canadians want their leaders to do something transformative about climate change, you’re probably very disappointed.

There’s a lot of worry about the resurgent Bloc Québécois, Western alienation and a generally divided country. All these concerns are valid, whether you’re Jewish or not.

Inflamed regional tensions and interests struggling against one another means that our politics are going to stay as dumb and rancorous as they have been of late.

Put any hopes of a “Pearsonian minority” to bed. Get ready for more howling about scandals that make little difference, or sense, to voters on Main Street, or Bathurst Street, while the big issues continue to simmer and fester.

The good news is that we’ve seen this before. And if the complete failure of Maxime Bernier’s People’s party is any indication, none of this unpleasantness is going to leave a lasting impression.

Canadians, it would seem, are not in favour of putting an end to globalism, they’re not pearl-clutching about “white genocide.” We won’t see an emboldened far-right militia marching through the streets and threatening Jews any time soon.

The whiff of 9/11 trutherdom and Holocaust denial emanating from the Green party was one reason it only picked up one more seat. The anti-Israel faction of the NDP was frustrated, too – along with all the other factions of that party.

The Bloc is going to use its 32 seats to demand concessions from the federal government, not push for separation. Plus ca change …

And the Alberta separatists? Not even U.S. President Donald Trump seems interested in absorbing the Prairies into the United States.

This is, I’m happy to report, what Canada looks like in the age of populism – not as bad as everywhere else, because unlike everywhere else, our extremists can’t be bothered to get organized. How very Canadian.

Don’t expect the prime minister to treat these undercurrents as anything other than a reason to plead for continued support, however. He won’t address the underlying problems that led our country to where it is now. His supremely overconfident victory speech made it clear that he thinks his party did a tremendous job.

You will be hearing from the Liberals about how only they can protect you from anti-Semitism, or climate change, or whatever your personal existential threat may be. But to do that, they need a whole lot of clear and present existential threats.

If Jews are to learn anything from this icky election, it’s that change is in their hands, if they want it and work hard for it. They can’t just hammer a few well-worn talking points and expect the entire country to follow along. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer learned this lesson the hard way.

To triumph against the overwhelming forces of “meh,” Canadian Jews have to follow the example of Jody Wilson-Raybould, who managed to keep her Vancouver seat despite heavy opposition from forces seeking to protect the prime minister. She put it all on the line, and she is still standing.

Jews in Quebec will have to put up a strong fight against their provincial government if they really want to stop Bill 21. There’s no way around it. And unless the Jewish community stops being comfortable and truly engages in the political process, we’ll get more dismissive treatment from the powers that be. The government has no reason to respect us if we don’t behave as though we respect ourselves.

For now, we have a brief period in between elections, during which the next step is uncertain. That could be an opportunity for the Jewish community, or cause paralysis. It’s up to us.