Doorstep Postings: A byelection play for Jewish votes brings out new accusations of Conservatives keeping a swindler’s list

Conservative flyer for the byelection in St. Paul's highlights Pierre Poilievre's opinion on Israel and Hamas more than anything about candidate Don Stewart.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Voters in the St. Paul’s riding believe they’re living amidst Canada’s most consequential political happenings.

Ottawa with its seething gossip, Quebec with its linguistic convulsions and the West with its populist stampedes are all considered child’s play compared to the dinner-party conversations and achingly earnest political pronouncements heard on the west side of midtown Toronto—a jurisdiction where the total Jewish population was around 15 percent according to 2021 census data.

For example, don’t you know that if the Conservatives somehow succeed in winning the riding it will spell doom for embattled Justin Trudeau? For weeks, the Liberal caucus has been threatening mutiny if Fortress St. Paul’s doesn’t stay in the Liberal fold. This while allegations of treason, out of control Speakers, and Mark Carney doing the drag-him-into-the-leadership-with-his-fingernails-digging-furrows-into-the-floor act doesn’t get them to break a sweat. But making or breaking a prime minister would definitely qualify as an appropriately dramatic turn befitting this riding’s storied history.

St. Paul’s is where star broadcaster Peter Kent wiped out before Thornhill helped him find his feet. St. Paul’s is where Dr. Eric Hoskins breezed to victory on the strength of his medical service abroad, his celebrity friends Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk, and his God-tier hair. St. Paul’s inspired Noah Richler’s tragicomic run for the NDP in 2015 which he later chronicled in a 386-page book called The Candidate. The residents expect a certain calibre on the ballot, don’t you know—someone with stature and a national profile and outsized aspirations that don’t ever actually translate into anything substantial.

And what residents they are! We had former Liberal senator Jerry Grafstein, who hasn’t lost a step at age 89, introducing candidate Leslie Church at the doors to confer his blessing upon her and reassure everyone that she will “fight antisemitism at home and abroad.” The question of why there’s any antisemitism to be fought in St. Paul’s in the first place is—and will remain—unanswered by everyone.

And then there’s the question of what right Grafstein has to speak for the Jewish community. But since he comes from an era where local Liberal captains ensured “the ethnic vote” showed up as expected whenever called upon, and stayed quiet the rest of the time, it’s far too late to expect anything else. 

Grafstein’s theatrical torch-passing is much more amenable to the high-minded voters of Toronto-St. Paul’s than the grubby, greasy, and worst of all PARTISAN strivings of those carpetbagging conservatives. (Booo! Hiss!) How dare they make lists of Jewish voters in the riding and send them letters reminding them of the party’s pro-Israel stance! Just because it was written by Jewish MP Melissa Lantsman doesn’t excuse the fact that they went through their disgusting lists hunting for individual Jews like Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. And it wasn’t even written by the candidate himself, either! The nerve! Does this guy want Jewish votes or not?

If that wasn’t bad enough, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather came all the way to Toronto from his suburban Montreal base—and put up with our inferior Toronto bagels besides—just so he could canvass for Leslie Church and stand behind Jerry Grafstein. But wait: didn’t Housefather already have one foot out of the party over Trudeau’s waffling on Israel? Don’t you worry your head about that, because the thanks he got for travelling 500 km on the 401 was being disinvited from speaking on “How We Tackle Antisemitism” at Beth Tzedec Congregation to kick off Shavuot. 

The synagogue claimed in a last-minute cancellation statement that letting a Liberal MP hold court in the middle of a byelection would be a pretty partial act by a house of worship, but we all know what it REALLY was: the heavy hand of Pierre Poilievre and his dastardly supporters! So much for ‘freedumb’, am I right?

Good loyal Liberals aren’t going to stand for this, and they also aren’t going to stand for the Conservative candidate, Don Stewart or whatever his name is, hosting a Zoom meet-and-greet—horrors—when a Jewish holiday is getting underway! This is almost as bad as Doug Ford possibly calling a snap Ontario election for Shemini Atzeret!

Yes, there’s nowhere in Canada where the nontroversies are pettier, where the outrage is more feigned, and where the lobbyists and aspiring lobbyists door-knock for half a street and then quit early to go get drinks at the Crestview Strategy open-bar night. If you ask me what will happen, I’ll go with: the NDP vote will “strategically” disappear and the Liberals will edge the CPC, and then Trudeau will shove the result in everyone’s faces and hang around until October 2025.

And when he does, the entire country from sea to sea will say, “It’s all thanks to the people of St. Paul’s!”

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.