There is no daylight between the Liberals and the current Conservative government when it comes to support for Israel insisted Liberal Party candidate Andrew Leslie (Orléans) at a roundtable discussion with Jewish Federation of Ottawa representatives on September 3.
Leslie, a lieutenant-general (retired) in the Canadian Armed Forces, was joined at the discussion organized by the Federation’s Communications and Community Relations Committee, by Mauril Bélanger, the incumbent MP running for re-election in Ottawa-Vanier.
Leslie was succinct and to the point when the candidates were asked whether and how Canadian government policy in regard to Israel might change should the Liberals form the government after the October 19 election (or if they formed a governing coalition with another party).
“Trying to find shades of gray would be unproductive,” said Leslie, when pressed to differentiate policies of a potential Liberal government from the currently governing Conservatives, when it comes to policies regarding Israel or the peace process with the Palestinians.
Leslie said both he personally and the Liberal Party have benefitted greatly from the tutelage of retiring MP Irwin Cotler on issues surrounding Israel and the peace process. Although they were unwilling to disclose details of the arrangement, Leslie and Bélanger said Cotler has agreed to serve in an advisory position, should the Liberal Party form the next government.
Leslie said the Liberal Party supports the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 nations led by the United States, and that the current sanctions in place to cripple Iran’s ability to pursue nuclear weaponry should be lifted if Iran complies with the nuclear deal once it is implemented. The deal, he said, will have to be enforced through systems of verification and not by trusting Iran.
However, Leslie also said there is “irrefutable proof” that Iran has acted as a state sponsor of terrorism through its support for terrorist groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel had an undeniable right to defend itself from attacks by such groups.
Asked about the role of ethnic communities and their agencies in the planning, funding and delivery of federal social services, Bélanger cited Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s announcement that a Liberal government would add $60 billion of spending over 10 years for infrastructure, social housing, seniors’ housing and renewable energy.
Bélanger said a Liberal government would work co-operatively with the provinces and municipalities on these programs, and ethnic communities and their agencies would be part of the process.
Asked about whether the Federal Security Infrastructure Program to protect at-risk communities from hate-motivated crimes would be expanded under a Liberal government, both candidates said they were unfamiliar with the program. Bélanger said the Conservative government has not informed Parliament about the program, but pledged to study the program and determine whether it would be possible to expand it.
Bélanger also said a Liberal government would implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that studied the effects of Aboriginal residential schools and said a Liberal government would do whatever it could diplomatically to influence countries that have been slow to provide restitution to Holocaust survivors.