When four Ottawa-area Green Party candidates met with representatives of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa for a roundtable discussion on September 1, they said it was an opportunity to meet members of the Jewish community and learn about the community’s priorities.
“What is it you’re looking for from a federal party?” asked candidate Nira Dookeran (Ottawa Vanier). “It’s the communities that know what the priorities are and the communities should be listened to.”
Dookeran was joined by fellow Green Party candidates Jean-Luc Cooke (Nepean), Deborah Coyne (Carleton) and Raphaël Morin (Orléans).
Coyne – a former Liberal who ran against Justin Trudeau for the party leadership and is now a senior policy adviser to Green Party leader Elizabeth May – said she saw the roundtable discussion as an opportunity to “inform ourselves” and to listen. She wants to hear from the Jewish community, she said, and to learn from it. “We’re a thoughtful party.”
A lawyer, university professor, constitutional activist and public servant, Coyne said she joined the Green Party recently because it’s a grassroots party without “megaphone moralizing.”
The first question posed to the candidates by Mike Shahin, chair of the Federation’s Communications and Community Relations Committee, which organized the roundtable discussions, concerned the “unconditional support” for Israel offered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government over the past nine years.
Noting the Green Party stands “solidly behind the security of Israel, Coyne said “Harper has taken too much of a one-sided approach.
“We want Canada to be more even-handed, to dial down the rhetoric,” noting “domestically and internationally, the Green Party stands for diplomacy.”
“Israel is an ally of Canada, and we’re not looking to change that,” added Cooke, the small business critic in the Green Party’s shadow cabinet. “Allies make mistakes,” he said, and criticism can be “constructive and helpful” in a relationship that is “more nuanced and mature.”
A Green Party government, Cooke said, “will assist an ally to defend its borders. We will stand in solidarity with our allies.”
“Violence is a perpetual cycle, and we don’t want any more bloodshed,” added Morin.
Asked about the role of ethnic communities and their agencies in the planning, funding and delivery of federal social services, Cooke said the Green Party recently announced a housing strategy, adding “communities that are the most troubled are getting the worst results,” so financing shouldn’t be tied totally to results, but to capabilities.
“The Green Party supports getting the federal government back in there to help the country,” added Coyne. “Let’s figure out how to find the revenues.”
Regarding the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Coyne said a first step “will be to abolish the Indian Act, a structure that’s not working.”