The Independent spoke with people in the Jewish community to gauge attitudes as the federal election approaches. What we found was a diversity of views and a lack of consensus.
An informal focus group of residents at the Weinberg Residence raised issues of out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatments and a lack of available doctors.
“You lose your doctor, you can’t get another one,” said one senior voter.
There was not great enthusiasm for any of the party leaders. One participant said she had lost respect for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau long before the recent brownface and blackface issue emerged.
“I was disappointed in him way back when he went to India and there was this whole thing of dressing up in Indian costumes. I felt it wasn’t very statesmanlike.”
“I feel that he’s had his chance and I don’t want to vote for him because he showed us what he can do. I don’t think he’s got what it takes,” said another voter.
“I expected nothing from Trudeau and I got it,” said another.
But there was no groundswell of support for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
“I’m disappointed,” said one. “I haven’t heard anything that’s promising.”
Some voters said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh comes across as sincere, but one said he has a lot of repair work to do with the Jewish community after his party’s positions against Israel in the past.
Elizabeth May, the Green leader, was viewed positively, but not seen as prime minister material.
“She’s very good at her subject, but I can’t envisage her really understanding what’s going on in the economy, in foreign affairs,” one resident said.
Among more than a dozen participants, the vast majority had a positive view of their incumbent MP, Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“I think she deserves better than she’s had,” said one person, while a Conservative supporter said she wishes Wilson-Raybould was running for her party, because she’d like to vote for her.
A show of hands indicated well more than half are undecided about who to vote for.
“Everybody’s confused,” said one, to laughter all around.
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Alice Sundberg, director of operations and housing development for Tikva Housing Society, would like to see the federal government get back into funding nonprofit housing.
“We think that there is a really significant role for the federal government in making rental housing more affordable,” she said. Rather than subsidies to renters, which go into the pockets of landlords and don’t create new housing, she would like to see either capital grants to reduce mortgages for nonprofit or co-op housing, thus reducing the rental costs, or ongoing operating subsidies to organizations like hers that develop new housing.
“We don’t have enough supply,” said Sundberg. “Back in the ’90s, when the federal government withdrew from funding new affordable housing, it was really the beginning of our homelessness crisis.”
Housing is also a topic for Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. The centre’s redevelopment will include at least 300 units of affordable rental housing. His team has spoken to many federal officials, including MPs, but, so far, he said, “No commitments, no confirmations, lots of good feedback and great understanding of the project, support for it, but nothing has translated into actual commitments, funding, promises, nothing of that sort.”
Support for the housing component might include financing from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, rather than grants, though he hopes for federal cash for the new JCC building. He credited the federal government for stepping up with funding for security infrastructure for communities at risk, but added there is always need for more.
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The rise of hate-motivated rhetoric and violence leads some community leaders to call for more federal action and leadership.
“With the rise of antisemitism, racism and far-right extremism, particularly in the online space, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre would welcome a comprehensive strategy to tackle hate in all its forms,” said Nina Krieger, executive director of the VHEC.
Russ Klein, principal of King David High School, would like to hear party leaders and candidates address how they are demonstrating moral and ethical leadership that creates trust and inspires Canadians, especially young people.
“How will they work to ease a society which seems quick to feel fear and seems overly stressed and anxious?” asked Klein. “I want to know how they will support a kinder, more inclusive society that offers hope and opportunity for all but especially to young people and to the most vulnerable in our society. How will they work to maintain affordable housing, livable wages and allow people to manage a balanced lifestyle in cities like Vancouver, where young families cannot afford to live in their current community? We live in extremely concerning times globally and I want Canada to lead in decreasing world tensions – how will they do that?”
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Similar broad topics arose among a handful of University of British Columbia students who met at Hillel House to discuss issues that are important to them. All agreed that there has not been enough discussion of foreign affairs and there is a lack of substantive difference between the parties on issues like immigration.
“I don’t see any candidate that has a clear foreign policy vision, even though I think Chrystia Freeland is, personally, a great minister of foreign affairs,” said Adam Yosef Dobrer, a third-year political science student who is volunteering on Zach Segal’s Conservative campaign in Vancouver Granville.
Dobrer also wants Canada to return to the Conservative policy of defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which he called the greatest obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“In the last four years, I found it very difficult to understand where Canada as a nation lies in foreign affairs,” said Nika Perel, a fourth-year psychology student from Ontario who plans to vote Conservative. She credited the previous Conservative government with more clarity on Israel and Palestine and on Russia and Ukraine. “Stephen Harper made it very clear that he took a position supporting Ukraine.”
Jake Reznik, a nursing student with an undergraduate degree in kinesiology who remains an undecided voter, said Canada is not adequately standing up to China over its treatment of the Muslim-minority Uygher population or its other human rights violations. He added: “There is a lot of influence that the Chinese government does have in Canada that goes under-recognized.”
Matt Perzow, an NDP supporter who plans to vote strategically for Joyce Murray, the Liberal candidate in Vancouver Quadra, to prevent a Conservative government, emphasized health care, including mental health services. Defending Canadian values like multiculturalism and care for the most vulnerable are also things he wants to see party leaders prioritize.
All the students agreed that supporting Israel is an important consideration in their vote, but also said it will not be the deciding factor.
“I wouldn’t vote for any party that I thought would jeopardize the future of the Jewish people, whether it’s in Canada, in Israel or in another place,” said Perzow. “I’m not voting for somebody because of that issue, but, if I thought that something compromised the well-being of the Jewish people, I wouldn’t support them.”
Dobrer, whose family migrated to Canada from Israel when he was an infant because of the Second Intifada, said he has a “very resonant emotional connection” to Israel “but I am a Canadian first.” He is concerned about some election candidates, including Green party MP Paul Manly, who Dobrer says has a “long and sordid history of antisemitism and 9/11 ‘trutherism’ and delving into conspiracy theories.” (After being elected in a by-election this year, Manly denied he supports 9/11 conspiracies after the CBC reported on statements he had made in 2007 and 2011.)
The students all agreed that the environment and climate change are top issues for them and their peers, but expressed nearly universal hopelessness that anything substantive would change.
“I have no doubt that it will not be addressed,” said Reznik. “I know personally I’m not going to be willing to sacrifice my own standard of living and, at the same time, I think it is tremendously insulting on my part to tell someone else that they can’t attain my standard of living that we have here.”
“A lot of people are standing up and screaming about things, but they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Perel.
A hint of hope came from Dobrer: “From the government, I’m very skeptical. But from young intellectual minds, from the not-for-profit sector, from the private sector, every day there is more and more innovation, technological advances and more intellectual capital devoted to dealing with climate change.”