If you could give just a few hours to build relationships and build goodwill for the Jewish community, would you do it? Now – during an election – is the best possible time to get active and engaged so that you can make a real difference. Voting is a start, but it’s not enough.
Our community makes up less than 1.1% of the population and we’re continuing to shrink. We also tend to live in urban centres. That means we have an impact at the ballot box in just 10 (three percent) of Canada’s 338 ridings. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We need to get engaged so we can work beyond just our local ridings where we vote.
CJPAC, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, is a multi-partisan, nonprofit organization. CJPAC’s mandate is to engage our community in the political process and foster active political participation. We work hard to build relationships, especially with candidates in the other 97% of ridings. If we had a repeat of last election, where there was a turnover of at least one-third new members of Parliament, that would be a lot of new relationships to build. We can start the process early by community members volunteering and getting to know the candidates and vice versa.
In the last federal election, 70 races – that’s 20% of all races in Canada – were won or lost by less than a five percent margin. Some races were lost by only 50 votes! A few more volunteers could have made the difference from being just a candidate to becoming an MP.
Hands down, the most effective way to make a difference this election is by volunteering for the candidate or campaign of your choice. Every campaign is hungry for volunteers, and just a small amount of time can be a big help.
You can expect to go door-knocking (possibly with your candidate!), make phone calls to constituents, hand out literature in the community, put up lawn signs or even work in a polling station.
“It’s a few hours of time committed, and it really does make a difference,” said Sharon Fitch, who volunteered on an NDP campaign in Victoria.
Volunteering can be done with the whole family and high school students can even get volunteer credit in some provinces, building their resumés along the way. Jonah Presser was just 15 when he first volunteered on a Conservative campaign in Montreal.
“It’s an excellent networking opportunity, builds confidence and you never know where volunteering could lead you,” he said.
CJPAC’s team makes volunteering easy by training you on the ins and outs of campaign volunteering, connecting you with the campaign of your choice and being there for you throughout the volunteering process. You can volunteer in your local riding or in one of the other 328 ridings where there is no strong Jewish presence. Maybe that means volunteering 20 minutes away from your home or, if you have a cottage, volunteering there. We need to cover a lot of ground to build goodwill and have the biggest impact.
“CJPAC supported connecting me to whatever party I wanted and helped me navigate who to contact,” said Maddy Cooper, who volunteered on a Liberal campaign in Toronto.
Even though Election Day is Shemini Atzeret (Oct. 21), campaigns need help every day of the week and every day of the election period.
You have the power to make a difference for the candidate you support and the opportunity to ensure that they have a connection to the Jewish community. So, take the first step by signing up to volunteer at cjpac.ca/volunteer, and CJPAC will connect you with the campaign or candidate of your choice.
Regardless of how one votes, it is incumbent upon all of us to build relationships with all parties. Our community is not monolithic and that is a great strength, especially when it comes to elections. Let’s put that strength into action.
Don’t wait to get engaged in this election. The outcome is in your hands.
Joseph Paperman is the chair and Mark Waldman is the executive director of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. This article originally appeared in the CJN.