Liberals retained all of their seats in Montreal ridings with significant Jewish populations

Anthony Housefather, centre, celebrates his re-election as MP for Mount Royal with campaign team members. (Credit: Courtesy Anthony Housefather)

There was no change in Montreal-area ridings with significant Jewish populations where Liberal incumbents were re-elected by wide margins.

In Mount Royal, Anthony Housefather, first elected in 2015, captured 57 percent of the vote, a touch more than in 2019. His closest challenger was Conservative Frank Cavallaro who received 24 percent.

Liberal since its creation in 1940, Mount Royal has the largest Jewish population of any federal electoral district in Quebec at around 30 percent. (The most recent data on religion was collected through the voluntary 2011 National Household Survey.)

In Outremont, Rachel Bendayan, who has held the seat since a February 2019 byelection, was returned with 45 percent of the ballots, matching her result in the general election two years ago.

Runner-up Ève Péclet of the New Democratic Party (NDP) finished with 26 percent. Outremont was Liberal throughout its history (except for going to the Progressive Conservatives for one term in the 1980s) until Tom Mulcair’s upset for the NDP in 2007. Later party leader, he held the seat until his resignation in 2018.

Housefather and Bendayan are the only Jewish Quebec MPs.

“Canadians clearly want a government that will work for them and try to co-operate with everyone,” said Housefather. “I hope all my colleagues in Ottawa will do their best to find common ground on issues that can unite us, not divide us.”

Bendayan told her constituents she will “continue to pursue our common goals of fighting climate change, strengthening gun control, and improving the lives of our families and seniors, not only here in Outremont but across Quebec and Canada.”

Elsewhere, former Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau handily retained his seat with 53 percent of the vote, while his nearest rival Emma Elbourne-Weinstock of the NDP took 19 percent. Conservative Matthew Kaminski was third.

Sameer Zuberi, first elected in 2019, also coasted to victory in Pierrefonds-Dollard with the support of nearly 56 percent of voters, compared to 20 percent for Conservative Terry Roberts.

During the campaign, Zuberi was the target of racism; several of his signs were defaced with obscenities and a derogatory term for Pakistanis, including one near a mosque. Zuberi’s father is South Asian-born.

In St. Laurent, Emmanuella Lambropoulos maintained her iron-grip on that riding with a 59 percent win, slightly improving her performance in a 2017 byelection and two years ago.

Trailing well behind was Conservative Richard Serour, who is Jewish and also ran in 2019, with just over 18 percent.

Cavallaro, a former television and radio weather broadcaster, noted that the turnout in Mount Royal was 53 percent, down from 60 percent in 2019. (According to Elections Canada’s final results, turnout in the riding was 56.7 per cent)

Despite Housefather’s convincing win, Cavallaro said 80 percent of residents he met were unsatisfied with the Trudeau government. “This means the Conservatives have a lot of room to grow,” he said.

Robert Libman, who was the Mount Royal Conservative candidate in 2015, admitted he was unsure who he would vote for. The former anglophone-rights Equality Party leader said he feels the specific concerns of Quebec minority members are not represented by any of the federal parties.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has not committed to legally challenging Bill 21, Quebec’s secularism law, let alone the overhaul of the French laws proposed in Bill 96, which many non-francophones think infringes on their rights, Libman points out.

Trudeau said during the campaign that he does not rule out his government contesting Bill 21, now waiting to be heard by the Quebec Court of Appeal. But Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh stated they would not interfere in Quebec’s jurisdiction.

Some Conservative supporters, including those who switched to the party when it was led by the pro-Israel Stephen Harper, may have been uncomfortable with voting for the Tories again after Premier François Legault’s tacit endorsement as the least “centralizing” of the federalist parties.

O’Toole only deepened doubts among anglophone and allophone Quebecers when he made a direct appeal to nationalists.

An interesting aside to the election is that the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) had four Jewish candidates in Quebec. Zachary Lozoff in Mount Royal, who also ran in 2019, is a PPC founding member. He is attracted to it because he wants a smaller, more efficient federal government.

David Freiheit in NDG-Westmount, Yehuda Pinto in Outremont, and Gregory Yablunovsky in St. Laurent cited their view that pandemic restrictions curtail rights and freedoms.

The Communist Party of Canada was alone in bringing Israel into the campaign. It revived a controversial poster first used in the 2015 campaign which pictures a lifeless child on a beach. The slogan on it this time was “Cessez l’appui canadien à l’apartheid israelien” (Stop Canadian support for Israeli apartheid).