Election roundtable: The Conservatives

With a party platform and plan focused on economic recovery, Conservative candidates Matt Triemstra (Nepean) and Carol Clemenhagen, (Ottawa Centre), spoke to the Ottawa Jewish community last week about their priorities — and how they’d meet the needs of Jews in Ottawa.

A key section of the discussion focused on antisemitism and Holocaust denial, stemming from the July announcement of 150 projects representing more than $6 million in funding that were recommended for development under a program to support communities that face the risks of hate crimes.

Highlighting the “robust” section in the Conservative Recovery Plan on security and safety, Clemenhagen called antisemitism the “oldest scourge.”

“We really need to be conscious of antisemitism on an ongoing basis,” she said. “There’s an openness to doing the best thing possible to provide the sense of security needed.”

Triemstra agreed — as a Christian, highlighting that he’s been ridiculed for his faith, but never persecuted for it.

“We’ve heard feedback that the security program doesn’t go far enough … one element is that you have to justify you’ve been a victim before you can access help,” said Triemstra. “That needs to be changed. We’re all horrified by the rise of hate crimes.”

The section in the Conservative’s published promises is titled “Protecting Community Security” and includes three bullet points that promise to double funding for the Security Infrastructure Program, simplify the application process and remove the need to demonstrate risk, and allow funding to be used for a broader range of expenses including paying security guards.

Both candidates agreed that more needs to be done in terms of adjusting and adapting educational curriculums to include a stronger emphasis on Holocaust education. This item is not specifically mentioned in the party’s platform, and educational curriculums primarily rest with provincial entities.

“I support a social studies framework that can be improved over time. It’s a starting point, something that can unify resources around finding a way to reach young people. As years progress and current generations have less connection to the Second World War … there’s less understanding and awareness about the Holocaust and the genocide that occurred there,” said Clemenhagen. “We need to be focused on making sure that everyone continues to understand what happened and why we need to stand against hate together.”

Clemenhagen also pointed to education as a key factor in battling antisemitism, while Triemstra pointed to the quick adoption of Reconciliation and LGBTQ+ curriculum elements in recent years.

“I had very little education in [these areas], but my son has had that education … but anti-semitism is still not included [in the classroom],” said Triemstra.

In the open question-and-answer section of the discussion, the topic of hate-related symbols and the appropriate justice also came up.

“The symbols of hate have no place,” said Triemstra. “I can’t set policy for the (Conservative Party) on this, but I agree that those symbols have no place in our culture and we should do everything we can to penalize their use.”

Clemenhagen also said that everyone should be standing up when they see hate-related symbols.

“Call it out when it happens, so people will understand the significance of it,” she said. “It’s not just the community being targeted … it hurts all of society when those symbols are used.”

As Triemstra noted, the Conservatives plan to give more than $100 million to non-police forces, like sexual health and cybersecurity groups, to help aid in the fight against online hate especially.

“There’s a good emphasis on additional funding, as well as in training police and providing community policing,” said Clemenhagen. “Those are very positive moves forward to ensure a sense of safety for people in their communities.”

Both also highlighted the Conservative’s plan to have a foreign policy “come back to Canada’s principled stance on issues,” as described by Clemenhagen.

“We want to work with friends and allies to promote peace and defend human rights,” she said. “I see that role of Canada as the middle power country that can really indicate internationally our support for Israel and peace for the Middle East, speaking out when it’s necessary to call out terrorism, but also to be a force to support efforts to move toward a viable two state solution.”

Triemstra outright said he “absolutely” supports Israel’s right to defend itself, and believes that Canada should not work with any government body that supports or promotes hate or violence, such as Hamas.

Other topics discussed include re-naming historic monuments, the housing crisis, and healthcare plans to reduce long waiting periods.

Watch the whole discussion here.