By the time you read this column, Justin Trudeau will have taken office as Canada’s new prime minister after leading the Liberal Party of Canada to majority government status in the October 19 federal election.
No one saw the magnitude of Trudeau’s victory coming. The opinion polls – from day one to day 78 of the longest federal election campaign in modern history – always suggested a minority government. At the beginning of the campaign, the New Democratic Party under Tom Mulcair was in the lead and Trudeau’s Liberals were in third place.
Then Stephen Harper’s Conservatives inched into the lead with the Liberals and NDP so close behind that it looked like any of the three parties might capture a plurality of seats for a minority government. This gave rise to speculation about a possible agreement or coalition between the Liberals and NDP to topple a Conservative minority. That was the state of affairs a month ago, when I wrote my column for the October 12 issue.
By the end of the campaign, support for the NDP had fallen significantly and increased enough for the Liberals that polls suggested a Liberal minority with about 140 of the 338 seats.
But, as the results came in on election night, the Liberal wave took enough formerly safe seats from both the Conservatives and the NDP that the Liberals went from 34 seats and third place in the last election to 184 seats – a solid majority – this time.
Harper’s Conservatives scored a breakthrough in the 2011 election when exit polls indicated they received the support of 52 per cent of Jewish voters, apparently on the basis of Harper’s strong support for Israel (even though the Conservatives never changed Canada’s policies in regard to West Bank settlements, the peace process, the two-state solution, or the status of Jerusalem).
But, in the election campaign, the other party leaders also pledged their support and Canada’s friendship for the Jewish state. There was virtually no substantive policy difference between the parties on Israel – a point Trudeau made forcefully when Harper brought up Israel in the leaders’ foreign policy debate.
While I doubt Trudeau will have the same kind of personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as did Harper – I don’t think Netanyahu had a closer personal friend than Harper among the leaders on the world stage – I am sure Canada’s nation-to-nation friendship with, and support for, Israel will continue at the same high level as recent years.
In the 2011 election, all but one of the five seats in Canada with statistically large Jewish populations went to the Conservatives. The only one that didn’t was Mount Royal, where Irwin Cotler’s support among Jewish voters fell sharply.
While I’m yet to see any exit polling data on how Jews actually voted in this election, four of those five seats – Mount Royal in Montreal, Eglinton-Lawrence and York Centre in Toronto, and Winnipeg South Centre – were won by Liberals. Only Thornhill, just north of Toronto, remained in the Conservative tent.
Here in Ottawa, all of the ridings with measurable Jewish populations went to the Liberals. The same was true in ridings in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps elsewhere across the country.
There were three Jewish members of previous Parliament: Liberal Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal), who did not run in this election, and Conservatives Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence) and Mark Adler (York Centre), who both went down to defeat.
There are six Jewish members – all of them Liberals – in the new Parliament: Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre), Julie Dabrusin (Toronto-Danforth), Karina Gould (Burlington), David Graham (Laurentides-Labelle), Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal) and Michael Levitt (York Centre).
Given the results from across the country, and anecdotally from conversations I’ve had with several Jewish voters, I assume that, if or when we see exit polling data on Jewish voters, it will show that at least some – if not a significant amount – of the vote captured by the Conservatives in 2011 went to the Liberals this time around.
With increasingly dismal results after each of the preceding four elections, many were ready to write off the Liberal Party. If Trudeau governs with the same skills with which he rebuilt the party, it will be an exciting time in Canadian politics.
For more commentary on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Ideas and Impressions by Jason Moscovitz – Justin Trudeau was the ‘Wayne Gretzky’ of the election campaign
My Israel by Barbara Crook – Trudeau can’t go back to classic Liberal ways when it comes to Israel
Guest column by Rabbi Michael Goldstein – Building ties between Canadian Jewry and the new prime minister