A number of Jewish candidates are running for a new right-wing party in Ontario’s upcoming provincial election. The New Blue Party is positioning itself as an alternative for people that have historically voted Conservative but are dissatisfied with Premier Doug Ford’s government.
According to the party’s mission statement, it believes Ontario’s established political parties are all “entrenched in radical left-wing ideology that seeks to socially re-engineer our province through tax-and-spend economics, government overreach, and crony capitalism.”
One of its biggest gripes with the current Ford government is how it has managed the pandemic, especially the repeated lockdowns and implementation of vaccine passports.
Joanne Csillag (no relation to The CJN’s reporter emeritus Ron Csillag), New Blue’s candidate in Toronto’s Willowdale riding, said the government’s mishandling of the pandemic was one of the main reasons she has lost faith in the Conservative party.
“It’s the flip-flopping, the back and forth. I know with the pandemic, the past year has been very difficult for everybody. It’s a tricky situation because everybody is navigating through a new situation. So first of all, I want to acknowledge that,” Csillag said. “But I think there was a lot of flip-flop back and forth, like, ‘we’re not going to go this direction,’ and ‘we are going to go this direction.’ So those things kind of concern me.”
Yakov Zarkhine, who will represent the New Blue Party in Thornhill, also has misgivings about Ford’s pandemic response, and especially the way he reacted to dissenting voices within the Conservative party.
“With regards to the PC leadership, my realization started to occur around the time of the pandemic, when certain members of Doug Ford’s caucus began raising concerns over certain emergency measures, and Doug Ford had a history of expelling some of his caucus members,” Zarkhine said. “As a free speech advocate and somebody that believes that free speech is central to functioning parliamentary democracy, that raised some red flags for me… that was the one issue that I really didn’t like seeing from the PC government.”
The New Blue Party, which has nominees in all 124 ridings in Ontario, promises to neutralize all COVID mandates by repealing emergency measures, ending vaccine passports and granting restitution to people who were fired because they chose not to get vaccinated.
“I do feel that we have come to almost what I call a two-tier system where it’s become discriminatory. You have people that can go in certain places and people that can’t based on a medical choice,” said Csillag. “To me, that’s a big deal.”
Zarkhine and Csillag both also said they were attracted by New Blue’s economic policies including defunding the taxpayer subsidy for established political parties and a reduction of three per cent on the harmonized sales tax.
For Zarkhine, who is a 19-year-old property manager and commerce student at York University, it is significant that he is running as a Jew in Thornhill, the only riding in the country that has a plurality of Jewish people.
“I think that my Jewish identity really helps me relate to many of our constituents. At the same time, obviously, I recognize that so many of our constituents in Thornhill are not Jewish, and many of those who are Jewish do not identify as Orthodox. So I am committed to standing for all the constituents while I myself am an Orthodox Jew,” he said.
While Zarkhine has his own personal values about how he lives his life, he made it clear that he does not see it as his place to try to bring those to his role as a government official, should he be elected.
“I think that’s really where more of the libertarian perspective of our party comes in, in terms of that limited government and limited encroachment on people’s personal freedoms and how they choose to practice religion and live their lives,” he said.
Csillag also spoke to how her Jewish identity informed her decision to run for office.
“If there’s something that I see that’s important, I feel like I have to stand behind it. And I guess where I stand with Jewish values is that… go back to our matriarchs and patriarchs. It’s not always a popular thing, but it’s just standing behind what you think is right,” she said.
The CJN also reached out to riding associations for Toronto-St. Paul’s where Yehuda Goldberg is a candidate and Don Valley North where Jay Sobel is running but did not hear back by deadline.