Doorstep Postings: What’s good for the Jews who are playing the game of election campaigns?

Blake Libfeld, because the Ontario PCs had to find somebody to run in Toronto-St. Paul’s, a traditionally Liberal riding won by the NDP in 2018. (Credit: YouTube)

This is the 19th in a series of opinion columns on the 2022 Ontario provincial election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

The argument that an election is a job interview, where each of the candidates is applying to become the riding’s elected representative, isn’t a new one. And even if you haven’t the faintest prayer of winning, putting your name on the ballot is an excellent opportunity to network—not to mention building professional and personal connections. 

As a candidate, you get to rub shoulders with powerful donors, meet lobbyists, go to party conferences where you give out cards with your name next to the party’s logo, and maybe even get featured in a publication like The Canadian Jewish News. Social media posts under your name get liked and shared, even if you didn’t write them yourself.

People take time out of their day to promote you to their friends and to strangers at the doors. Campaign staff are paid to work for you and demonstrate their loyalty to you (and whoever it is they’re trying to impress as well—but at least, occasionally, you). It’s your name and face on the signs, in the ads, and on the networks when the votes get counted on election night. (Which is June 2 for the one we’ve been focusing on here.)

Play your cards right and—even if you lose—you may be rewarded for your loyalty to the party. An appointment. A pathway to a new career outside what you’ve been doing. Spontaneous job offers and other opportunities to build your resume. 

At the very least it’s the chance to feel that you’re on a team, where people will react approvingly to what you’re saying instead of just wanting to talk about themselves. 

The longer you spend in Campaign World—where people who wouldn’t otherwise give you the time of day are nice to you because they think it will benefit them somehow—the more you begin to think that your name has real cachet. Your conscious mind may be telling you that they’re all looking out for themselves, but in too many cases, candidates think that none of this would be happening without them.

And when the political becomes personal—well, that’s when the seeds of scandal, of controversy, of treating political service like a side hustle are planted.   

There are plenty of interesting Jewish candidates, MPPs, campaign staff, and the like. Everyone has a fascinating story about why—details I’m sure our readers will find interesting. But they are all subject to the forces of Campaign World, where you must constantly be engaging with people, constantly fundraising, constantly trying to stay relevant…

It doesn’t matter who you are. You could be a first-time candidate in one of Ontario’s wealthiest ridings. The go-to guy for a perpetually third-place party in another. An ex-MPP testing out a new speaker series. Another who departed Queen’s Park to run a longshot campaign for leader. A prospective MPP who makes vaccination efforts a political issue. Candidates for outsider parties who see no contradiction between populism and Judaism. Even folks who’ve been railroaded by their party.

In every case, despite their best intentions and to varying degrees, it becomes about them and not about their constituents, or about what’s best for the province, or the Jewish community. 

We can bemoan our first-past-the-post electoral system, or Doug Ford’s mysterious buddies, or malign influence from south of the border all we like for the seemingly inevitable result of an Ontario PC re-election. But all of those explanations only cover so much ground. 

You see, the thing about a government is that (at least to some degree) everyone’s personal interest aligns with the government staying in power. And woe betide the people trying to replace that government if too many candidates get distracted by their own desires along the way.

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