Calling Canada “Israel’s best friend in the world,” Pierre Poilievre pledged that a re-elected Conservative government would continue to build upon Canada’s “wonderful” friendship with the Jewish state.
Poilievre was one of three Conservative candidates who met with Jewish Federation of Ottawa representatives in a roundtable discussion organized by the Federation’s Communications and Community Relations Committee on August 31.
Poilievre – still minister of employment and social development and minister of State for democratic reform – represented the former riding of Nepean–Carleton in the last Parliament and is now the Conservative Party candidate in the new riding of Carleton. He was joined at the discussion by candidates Abdul Abdi (Ottawa West–Nepean) and Andy Wang (Nepean).
“This is a unique position for our country to stand with Israel,” said Polievre. “Not just when it’s easy, but when it is most difficult, even if it means standing alone sometimes.”
Asked why the Conservative government’s support for Israel has been unconditional and unquestioning of certain policies and actions of the Israeli government, Poilievre said the approach “balances off the very extreme and the all too common position taken by other countries that have attempted to isolate the one and only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East.”
But, is this balance beneficial to the peace process?
“Yes,” replied Polievre. “We believe in a democratic and demilitarized Palestinian homeland. At the same time, that can only happen when Israel is safe and secure and recognized as a long-standing aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people.”
Abdi and Wang agreed. “The ultimate result is to ensure that we have a safe, secure Israel,” said Abdi.
“It is important for countries like Canada to speak out against terrorism and to identity it as the cause of the conflict in the Middle East,” said Polievre. “All the major incidents that have happened over the last decade – Hezbollah attacks in the north, Hamas rockets in the south – in all of those cases it was the terrorists who were the provocateurs and it was Canada that stood almost alone in pointing to that fact. I don’t think we need for yet another country to blame Israel for the actions of terrorists. We provided balance by pointing out who was really responsible.”
Asked whether the Federal Security Infrastructure Program would be expanded to help protect schools and synagogues from possible hate crimes, Poilievre declined to comment, saying that he could not make a policy statement. However, Abdi, a constable currently on leave from the Ottawa Police Service, said he would support any program that promotes a safe community.
The candidates were evasive when asked about the role of ethnic communities and their agencies in the planning, funding and delivery of federal social services, including affordable housing and senior care.
Wang stressed the need to build a strong economy and said the home renovation tax credit proposed by Conservative leader Stephen Harper would assist seniors in making their homes more accessible while Poilievre mentioned several initiatives already implemented, including an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement, the increased amount people can put in their Tax Free Savings Account and the extension of the Employment Insurance compassionate leave period to six months from six weeks.
The candidates also emphasized the friendship of the Conservative Party with the Jewish community.
Abdi, a Muslim, said he would help bring the Jewish and Muslim communities together to collaborate and learn from each other and pointed to the 11-year-old Ottawa program promoting friendship and understanding among Grade 6 students at the predominately Muslim Charles H. Hulse Public School and the Ottawa Jewish Community School.
“If they can start these discussions in elementary schools, we can do a lot
more work in the wider community,” he said. “I can be an ambassador to both communities.”