A lacklustre Ontario election campaign, which ended June 2 with the Progressive Conservatives winning a large majority, saw ridings with large numbers of Jewish voters remain blue.
Two Jewish MPPs will be heading to Queen’s Park—Andrea Khanjin, the Conservative incumbent in Barrie-Innisfil was re-elected, as was first-time politician Michael Kerzner, the Conservative candidate in York Centre.
Kerzner, founder of a biosciences firm, defeated Liberal candidate Shelley Brown, an employment and human rights lawyer.
The riding, a traditional Liberal stronghold, had been represented by Roman Baber since 2018. Baber was ejected from the Tory caucus over a disagreement with Premier Doug Ford’s strict COVID lockdown policies. Baber, who sat as an independent for the rest of the term, is currently running for the leadership of the federal Conservatives.
Kerzner credited the commanding sweep—the Ontario PCs won 83 of the 124 seats, which was more than they did in 2018—on the campaign’s emphasis on “positivity.”
“People liked the fact that this was a positive campaign, they felt that Premier Ford was 100 percent in it with them. They were happy with the past four years,” Kerzner said in an interview with The CJN, the morning after the election.
As one of two Jewish MPPs, and likely the first one educated in the day school system, Kerzner says he intends to take the community’s concerns about rising antisemitism to Queen’s Park.
Kerzner said he’s already heard from his former teachers at United Synagogue Day Schools (USDS) during the campaign.
Locally, the biggest challenge and opportunity for the very diverse riding, which has large numbers of Jews, Filipinos and Russians, will be the development of the former Bombardier lands, which will eventually be the site of 20,000 homes, Kerzner said.
Dr. Nathan Stall, who served on Ontario’s COVID Science Advisory Table, and Conservative candidate Blake Libfeld were unable to unseat incumbent NDP candidate Jill Andrew in a close race in Toronto-St.Paul’s.
Stall said voters did not want to discuss the pandemic, despite the fact that the healthcare system has a quarter of a million backlog surgeries and a “nursing crisis” with 15 percent of people leaving the profession.
“I don’t think Doug Ford was properly held to account,” Stall said in a Friday morning interview.
“No government was perfect, and we were never going to prevent every death and all the hardship we had. But we could have done a lot better. Specifically, when it came to things like seniors and long-term care, when it came to protecting our essential workers, and when it came to the response we had in our schools with some of the longest closures to in-person learning anywhere in North America.
“So no, I don’t think that Doug Ford was held to account at the ballot box when it came to the pandemic response.”
Dianne Saxe, deputy leader of Ontario’s Green Party finished third in University-Rosedale, where NDP incumbent Jessica Bell was re-elected. Saxe, an environmental lawyer and former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario from 2015 to 2019, decided to run when Ford’s government eliminated her position.
Reflecting on the Tory sweep, Saxe said, “I think it’s disastrously bad for Ontario to have another Ford majority. It certainly means we will see even more of the bullying, abuse of the legislature and the very bad pro-development, pro-car decisions that we’ve seen from him up until now.
“Climate change doesn’t care how we vote, and it’s going to continue to accelerate. Almost every decision that he’s making is taking us farther away from a path we can survive.”
The Green Party had hoped to make greater inroads in this election—but, in the end, only Mike Schreiner, the Green leader from Guelph, was re-elected. The party received just under 6 percent of the vote, according to Elections Ontario.
“I’m really sorry that we don’t have more Green MPP’s at Queens Park, but we did have a significant increase in our share of the popular vote, doubled the donations, huge increase in signs and volunteers, the most detailed, well-crafted climate policy we’ve seen from any party or any government across Canada and a lot of energy,” Saxe said in a Friday morning interview.
Thornhill, the most heavily Jewish riding in the province, remains a Tory safe seat with the election of Laura Smith, who owns a litigation support business. Former MPP Gila Martow resigned when she sought the federal candidacy in the riding.
The New Blue Party of Ontario, which counted a number of Jews among its candidates, garnered just 2.7 percent of votes, according to Elections Ontario. The party was formed in opposition to Ford’s strict COVID measures earlier in the pandemic.