B.C. Generation students in Ottawa earlier this year. (photo from CJPAC-BC)
This summer, CJPAC, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, celebrated the first anniversary of its British Columbia office. The multi-partisan organization, which already had offices in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, recently expanded its presence with offices in Vancouver and Winnipeg.
CJPAC’s mandate is to engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process and to foster active political participation. It is dedicated to helping community members build relationships within the Canadian political arena.
In the last year, CJPAC’s B.C. office has hosted a number of events, including Vancouver Connect: Meet Your Next Mayor, which was an opportunity for 100 participants to meet with mayoral and city council candidates in advance of the municipal election, and the second annual Women in Politics gathering, at which 45 community members heard about working in politics from five female politicians and political staffers.
In addition, last May, 11 B.C. high school students traveled to Ottawa as part of CJPAC’s Generation program for two days of networking and training sessions. While in Ottawa, the students had a tour of Parliament Hill, observed Question Period and met with elected officials from all parties.
“In a little over a year, CJPAC has had a tremendous impact on the B.C. community,” said Karen James, CJPAC board member. “Its staff has addressed over 700 people at synagogues throughout Vancouver, as well as 200 campers, 90 high school students and 60 seniors. They have also visited community members in Nanaimo, Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria.”
CJPAC’s ultimate goal is to help the Jewish and pro-Israel community have an impact beyond its numbers by encouraging as many of its members as possible to get engaged in politics, particularly through volunteering.
“Our unique programs are aimed at all age groups and are designed to make people comfortable with volunteering, even if it’s for the very first time,” said Kara Mintzberg, B.C. regional director. “In this federal election year, it is important that our community volunteers in high numbers. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment; just a few hours can make a significant difference to a campaign.”
According to recent research, only 10% of Canadians have volunteered in an election. However, in the last federal election, 101 – one-third of ridings – changed parties and 51 ridings had a margin of victory of five percent or less. Volunteers are hugely important, particularly in close ridings, and campaigns need people for all kinds of tasks: envelope stuffing, door knocking, making phone calls, putting up lawn signs and identifying and getting voters to polling stations on election day.
Bill Kaplan, CJPAC board member, noted that “recent polls indicate that the federal election could be very close, particularly in B.C., which means that our community – although small relative to the rest of the Canadian population – has the ability to make a real difference just by volunteering, regardless of the party or candidate individual members choose to support.”
During the last federal election, CJPAC connected more than 900 community members with campaigns.
“We would be happy to help connect you with the candidate or party of your choice in 2015,” said Mintzberg. “If you’re not sure who you would like to volunteer with, we can help with that, too. The important thing is to get involved and ensure our community has a significant impact this election.”