Gabe Garfinkel, Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Fairview. (photo from Gabe Garfinkel)
Whether the B.C. Liberals or the NDP win the riding of Vancouver-Fairview in the May 9 provincial election – and any other result would upend every prognostication – the riding will have a Jewish MLA.
There has never been a great number of Jewish politicians in British Columbia – though some, like David Oppenheimer and Dave Barrett have made history – and so it is an unusual situation that two members of the province’s Jewish community find themselves head to head in this election.
The riding has been held since 2013 by New Democrat George Heyman, who was profiled in the Independent’s April 7 issue. Gabe Garfinkel, a former assistant to Premier Christy Clark, won the Liberal nomination for the riding in February; Louise Boutin is the Green party candidate in Fairview, Phil Johnston is the Libertarian and Joey Doyle is running for Your Political Party of British Columbia.
Garfinkel was profiled by the Independent during his nomination run (Dec. 2, 2016). For the Independent’s election coverage, we posed to him the same questions we asked all candidates we interviewed.
Responding to threats to ethnocultural communities, Garfinkel said security should be a partnership between government and the community.
“When Premier Clark announced $100,000 of security funding for the Jewish community, I think that makes a tangible difference because it allows us to hire security,” he said, adding that incidents of threats and violence have had the unintended consequence of building bridges between communities. “When we heard about the devastating attacks in the mosque in Quebec, that really gave the Jewish community and the Muslim community an opportunity to work together to address racism and hatred and intolerance.”
Having strong representation in the legislature, he said, is important in times like these.
“We need to work as a community to ensure these voices are heard in government and to ensure that we have the right representation out there standing up for our interests, which is what I plan on doing,” said Garfinkel. “As we look across the world at the instability and the insecurity in some areas, and even in our own backyard, we must be united and we must have an effective voice in government that is able to look after us.”
Changes to the education curriculum that increase attention to indigenous issues including residential schools is a good thing, he said, and further exploring the histories of B.C. multicultural communities will make the province better.
On partnerships between the government and multicultural communities, Garfinkel said the Jewish community is a model.
“The Jewish community has always been a community that takes care of those who most need our support,” he said. “That’s what makes our community who we are and makes us so strong. That’s why I’m so pleased to join Premier Clark and her team, who have continuously funded these services, which are funded by the strong economy.”
Affordability is an issue all parties are addressing and Garfinkel said he takes it personally because his family has been in Vancouver-Fairview for four generations.
“My great-grandparents lived here, my grandmother grew up here and then my parents did as well,” he said. “I want to stay in the community I live in today. Being able to find affordable housing is a difficult challenge that I’m facing personally as well. I can relate to a lot of other people in our community who are going through the same thing.”
He highlighted initiatives of the provincial government aimed at improving affordability, including a 15% foreign homebuyers tax, the B.C. Home Owner Mortgage and Equity (HOME) Partnership program, which he said will get 42,000 families into the housing market while also making rental space available, as well as the first-time homebuyers grant.
“At the same time,” he said, “housing affordability is a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.” He said the government will see if there are ways to work with Metro Vancouver municipalities to expedite the permitting process on 100,000 housing units currently in the planning stages.
While foreign affairs is a federal matter, the boycott, divest from and sanction movement against Israel seeks to target Israel at every level of politics and society.
“I am absolutely 100% against BDS and I have no problem saying that,” Garfinkel said. “Israel needs more friends in this world and B.C. as a province, under the leadership of Premier Clark and International Trade Minister Teresa Wat, has increased and promoted trade with Israeli companies and also its universities and government.”
In addition, Garfinkel said the BDS movement demonstrates that “we have to teach more about antisemitism.”
“We have to talk about the harmful and hateful rhetoric that we’re hearing on campuses across our continent,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life so far to serving my community, working with CIJA [Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs] as well as Federation and CJPAC [Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee] to help increase our voice against harmful forces like BDS and I want to continue doing that at the legislature and I want to continue fighting antisemitism there.”