Monday, March 14, 2011

Conservatives positioning budget defeat as wedge issue in Jewish community

With all the attention lately around Jason Kenney's campaign to target the ethnic community making use of taxpayer resources, and Kenney's crowning as the "King of Multiculturalism" it's no surprise the Conservatives are positioning a possible defeat on the budget later this month (and the election that would result) as a wedge in the Jewish community.

The following e-mail from Georganne Burke has been circulating recently in the Jewish community. Burke, a long-time senior Conservative campaign official and former senior special assistant to Tony Clement, is now tour manager for Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak.

You may remember Burke from December 2008 when, while working for Clement, she tried to block Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff from attending a menorah lighting ceremony at Toronto's Zareinu Educational Centre, insinuating Ignatieff's presence could endanger the school's federal funding.

Anyway, as the e-mail shows, Burke and the Conservatives are trying to turn a possible spring election into a wedge issue with Jewish voters:
Subject: An Election Issue for all Jewish Voters

There is a very strong likelihood that an election will be called in the next couple of weeks.

If this is the case there is a serious problem for all Jewish voters. The advanced polls, and several days on which people can vote fall on Passover.

As we all know, it is not just the holiday itself that is an issue, but the days leading up to it are extremely busy. In addition, many people cannot vote during Chol Ha'Moed Pesach.

I would ask that all of you contact the leaders of the opposition parties and ask them to consider the Jewish community when they force this election.

Jack Layton - Layton.J@ Ignatieff - Ignatieff.M@ Duceppe - Duceppe.G@

The dates of the holiday are as follows:

Monday, Apr 18, Erev Pesach
Tues and Wed, Apr 19-20, Yom Tov
Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Apr 21-24, Chol Ha'Moed
Sat, Apr 23, Shabbat
Sun Apr 24, Yom Tov begins at sundown
Mon and Tues, Apr 25-26, Yom Tov

The days for advanced polls would be April 22, 23, 25.

In addition, the Yom Tov days would be inaccessible to most of us to vote.

Please contact the Opposition Leaders as soon as possible.
Now, should Jewish holidays be considered when considering election timing? Absolutely. While the nature of a minority government means the government could lose the confidence of the house at any time, if an election is triggered as much consideration as feasible should be given to accommodating religious and ethnic holidays.

Notice though that there's no call to contact Stephen Harper to urge him to work with opposition parties to avoid an election, making her agenda clear: it's really about pressuring the opposition parties into accepting whatever it is the Conservatives propose in their budget, and overlook the accumulating ethical and moral lapses of this government.

Here's what's really rich about Burke's e-mail, though. While Burke is trying to rally the community against the opposition parties on election timing, the fact is the Harper Conservatives called a 2008 election that fell on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Yes, while a spring 2011 election on the dates outlined would be the result of a loss of confidence in the government on a matter of confidence (and Harper maintains some flexibility on election scheduling after a defeat), in 2008 Harper went to the government at timing of his own choosing not because of a lose of confidence, but because he saw an opportunity to increase his seat-count. He controlled the timing and he picked an election date that fell on a Jewish holiday. And by and large, the Jewish community gave him a pass.

Now Burke and the Conservatives are trying to make election timing a religious wedge, despite not considering it important enough to change their partisan calculations in the past. Just goes to show that in their ethnic outreach campaign, there's no low card the Conservatives won't play.

It's also worth nothing Easter Sunday is April 24th, and the 2008 election was over Thanksgiving.

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Dan F said...

What about Easter?

DL said...

Not only that but all the law says is that an election campaign has to be a minimum of 35 days - there is no maximum. If Harper wanted to accommodate the minute number of ultra orthodox Jews who would be out of the country on May 2nd and have some absurd interpretation of Jewish religious law that says that they cannot vote in advance polls the week of April 25 - there is a simple solution - make May 9 election day.

WhigWag said...

Nice catch. And thanks for highlighting that 2008 episode, too -- maybe you already pointed that out, but that's probably what the OLO were referring to when they explained why they were keeping it under their hat, that MI was going to be making a speech at that India reception the PMO shooed the press from, a couple weeks back.

Lorne said...

Your excellent post amply demonstrates that there is no divisive stone which the Harper regime will leave unturned to maintain and increase power. Such unadulterated and unfettered ambition has no place in Canada.

Jason Cherniak said...

The only weekend during Passover is Easter Weekend. Is Ms. Burke suggesting that there will be advanced polls on Easter Sunday and Monday? I think that point should be made sperately, because she is just plain wrong, never mind the politics.