Doorstep Postings: Rob Davis and Anthony Furey on seeking Jewish community support outside of the Toronto mayoral debates

Rob Davis and Anthony Furey bringing their campaigns to the Walk with Israel in Toronto on May 22, 2023.

This is the seventh Toronto mayoral byelection race edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Toronto’s Walk with Israel typically attracts political contenders looking for federal or provincial votes at this time of year. But municipal races were never much of a springtime thing before John Tory’s resignation triggered a June 26 mayoral byelection.

And while the Victoria Day event’s starting line featured appearances from five of the six establishment frontrunners—Olivia Chow, who was leading in public opinion polls, wasn’t in attendance—two other candidates made a point of appearing on the walk route itself.

Former city councillor Rob Davis and True North editor Anthony Furey are both right-wing candidates who weren’t getting invited to the main debates. So, we caught up with them about using the Walk with Israel as an outsider campaign stage.

“There’s not a waking hour that doesn’t go to meeting and greeting voters,” said Anthony Furey about his participation, noting that he reconnected with Thornhill MP Melissa Lantsman along the route. Constant campaigning has helped Furey poll ahead of candidates Brad Bradford and Mitzie Hunter, something that his former Toronto Sun colleague Joe Warmington was excited to report.

But a more unique strategy came from Davis, the first Black city councillor elected to the City of York:

Davis handed out posters reproducing the front page of the Palestine Post (now the Jerusalem Post) from May 14, 1948, which proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel.

Setting up a tent at the corner of Bathurst and Sheppard, across from protesters, Davis says he was confronted by three or four people wearing masks, telling him he should be ashamed of this unapologetic display. His response: “Why are you wearing masks if I’m the one who should be ashamed?”

Both candidates wanted to send a message with their appearances. Furey says that he also has had frequent meetings with friends in the Jewish community, and that safety is their main concern.

“We have a cause and effect relationship between fewer police officers and the increase in attacks on synagogues and other religious facilities,” he says. “As mayor I will hire 500 new police officers—and while that may sound like a lot, it only brings us back to the 2014 head count. And you will get a visit from the police if you spray graffiti on a synagogue or throw a brick through a window.

“Furthermore, I will be looking into the issue of why the Jewish community needs to pay for private security at synagogues while also paying taxes, as that hardly seems fair.”

When asked about the apparent gap between Olivia Chow and the other candidates, Furey spoke of endorsements from both Liberals and Conservatives—along with Dr. Jordan Peterson—and his enthusiastic campaign volunteers.

“I do understand that there are two people in this race who are not wishy-washy about their positions, and those two are myself and Olivia Chow. But we’re determined and energized to catch up to her.”

When it comes to addressing challenges that face the Jewish community, or any other minority group, Rob Davis gets more personal.

“I started my campaign with a Dundas Street sign, saying that it was misguided to change the name of street signs. And when I went to South Africa a few years after apartheid came to an end there, I asked some of the Black hotel workers about their experience and they said that they still felt hated.

“That’s when I learned that you can change a sign, but you can’t change what’s in someone’s heart. The current council is misguided because they want to change what’s in people’s hearts—and I’ve been trying to find out what’s in people’s hearts, from the tailor I had growing up with a number tattooed on his arm, to my First Nations neighbours across the street where I grew up.

“And I’m very much aware of my own trauma, being of Jamaican heritage and having ancestors who were slaves. But I want to focus on what’s important, creating a safer, cleaner, and kinder City of Toronto where we take care of the less fortunate and repair the world, because when we don’t that’s when we see people acting out on subway platforms.

“If it’s bashert, it’s bashert,” says Davis. “It’d make me the second mayor who can speak Yiddish, after Mel Lastman.”

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