Ontario Tories win big in ridings with large Jewish populations

Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford gives a victory speech in Toronto, after winning a majority in the June 7 election. (Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario photo)

There will be at least three Jewish MPPs, all on the government benches, following the Progressive Conservative wave that washed over Ontario in the June 7 provincial election.

In Thornhill, the riding with the highest concentration of Jews in Ontario, incumbent Tory Gila Martow trounced her nearest opponent, the NDP’s Ezra Tanen, by nearly 20,000 votes. It was a big improvement over the 2014 election, in which Martow’s margin of victory was about 100 votes.

In York Centre, former MPP Monte Kwinter’s longtime Liberal stronghold, PC candidate Roman Baber coasted to an easy win, as well.


And in Barrie-Innisfil, north of Toronto, Andrea Khanjin defeated the Liberal incumbent by more than 16,000 votes.

Among the upsets in the election was the defeat of Liberal Mike Colle in Eglinton-Lawrence. A longtime advocate for Jewish causes, Colle lost by fewer than 1,000 votes to the PC’s Robin Martin in a see-saw battle. In the 2014 vote, Colle defeated Martin by a 55 to 33 per cent margin. He had held the riding, which is about 22 per cent Jewish, since 1995.

Another surprise was the defeat of Liberal David Zimmer in Willowdale. Zimmer, who recently championed the establishment of a Jewish hospice in Toronto, was crushed by a 10,000-vote margin by Conservative Stan Cho.

The NDP hopeful in Scarborough-Agincourt, Tasleem Riaz, who had been accused by the Conservatives of posting pro-Nazi memes and praising Adolf Hitler on social media five years ago, finished third, with just over 6,000 votes.

Gila Martow
Gila Martow

The Conservatives also accused the NDP’s Joel Harden of supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. Yet Harden won his Ottawa Centre seat handily.

Ben Levitt, the 25-year-old Conservative candidate who has served on the boards of the Hamilton Jewish Federation and Temple Anshe Sholom, came second in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas to the NDP’s Sandy Shaw. Levitt, however, picked up more than 12,000 votes.

On the issue of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist activity on university and college campuses, Baber, a lawyer who was born in the Soviet Union and lived in Israel from age eight to 15, said the Tories would tie funding of post-secondary institutions to the protection of all students’ rights. He also said that he will work to strengthen Ontario’s ties and trade with Israel.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s trade mission to Israel netted $180 million in new agreements.

It was Martow who introduced the 2016 motion in the legislature that rejected the BDS campaign against Israel. That was after Colle had co-sponsored a bill that would have punished companies that complied with BDS. The bill was defeated and Colle went on to support Martow’s motion. Colle also helped establish May as Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario.

We congratulate Doug Ford and the PCs.
– Marty York

There had been some debate in Jewish circles about premier-designate Doug Ford’s past statements about Jews and other groups, with some accusing him of bigotry and others noting that he has stood up for the Jewish community, such as when he said he would defund the Pride parade if it didn’t disinvite Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which he called a hate group.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai Brith Canada had identified issues of importance to the Jewish community during the campaign, including combating anti-Semitism, improving security, preventing genetic discrimination and helping the most vulnerable.

“We congratulate Doug Ford and the PCs. We look forward to working with them on issues affecting the Jewish community and all Ontarians,” said B’nai Brith’s chief media officer, Marty York.

“We hope and pray that the new government will govern the province at all times with wisdom, courage and principle,” said the organization Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE), in a statement. “GAJE will once again publicly urge Queen’s Park to finally take the appropriate steps to do the moral, right thing: bring a measure of fairness to a patently unfair and punitively discriminatory educational funding system.”

CIJA spokesman Adir Krafman congratulated “PC Leader Doug Ford on being elected the 26th premier of the Province of Ontario, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on being elected leader of the official Opposition. We also thank Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne for her years of dedicated service to Ontarians.

“We will be working closely with our partners in Jewish communities across Ontario to develop and advance our advocacy agenda over the coming months, and look forward to working with MPPs from all parties at Queen’s Park.”