Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Joyce Bateman in Israel

 “It’s the re-election! This is the million-dollar shot!” – Conservative MP Mark Adler

Joyce Bateman was among the over 200 people who went to Israel on the Harper government visit these past days. Nine Conservative MPs and six cabinet ministers were on the junket. There were also 21 rabbis and evangelical ministers.

No Canadian delegation has ever been so big as this one in history.

No Canadian delegation has ever picked up the tab for non-government officials prior to this. There were 29 people who had a full ride paid trip to Israel. And how much was that? Well, the Sun Media group said the government required media to pay $8000 per person.

Some might criticize past Liberal and Progressive Conservative government for Team Canada trips to countries. However, Mulroney, Chretien and Martin also included premiers, academics from the universities and a host of business leaders who were not necessarily party members or contributors to the party in time and money.

Stephen Harper's visit to Israel had a more partisan slant to it, more Conservatives, supporters and donors than anything Canadians have seen to date.

The objective according to many is to secure the 10 seats in Canada where there is a significant Jewish vote.

The riding boundaries change quite a bit almost everywhere but the Conservative hope is that they can capture more of the Jewish vote in Canada by having the most pro-Israel policy.

The Jewish population in Canada is around 350,000 people, about 1% of the population. There are several communities in Canada where Jewish votes are more concentrated.

The riding of Winnipeg South Centre is one such riding and Joyce Bateman won it in a close race with Liberal Anita Neville.

Prior to the 2011, Bateman had been a longtime Liberal but said she joined the Tories because she thought the party fiscal policy was "reckless."

It is wrong to think the Jewish vote as monolithic but even Neville said that some people in the Winnipeg riding changed their vote based on a more pro-Israel stand by the Tories.

It is safe to say that the Harper Conservatives now have the most pro-Israel government in Canadian history. However, while the trip was front page news in Canada, it was inside the cover in Israel.

To be honest, Canada really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things to Israel. As with all things, it is the United States that matters most. That is now, in the future, forever.

What might have helped Israel would have been Canada on the Security Council of the United Nations. But Canada was rejected in part because of the Harper's government pro-Israel policy.

Some Tories will say that doesn't matter, that a principled stand full of conviction is what is more important. Maybe. The word being used lately is that Canada no longer has "nuance."

A principled stand can and should have nuance. And by that the thinking is that Canada has to take the broad view lest it be taken for granted, ignored or simply lumped in as not really having a unique view on things.

This lack of nuance may help the Conservatives with one group and hurt them with another.

The population of Canadian Muslims has reached 1 million and now comprises 3.2% of the population. It is possible that Harper's policy in Israel might run into resistance with some of the ethnic and religious Muslims in Canada.

Tory "incrementalism" targets ethnic communities with things they favour strongly. The problem is that at some point, there will be a conflict that can't be easily smoothed over.

At the moment, Stephen Harper is "all in" when it comes to Israel policy and they are likely to play that up to the max with a very large ad campaign. In the past, they have accused a Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a Jew, of being anti-Semitic. It is possible we will see this type of nastiness again with suggestions that anyone other than a Conservative is anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.

It is remarkable that it has come to this when you think of how Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien were able to show support for the Northern Ireland peace process from 1985 on without electioneering. And make no mistake, Canada became deeply involved there with Canadian General John de Chastelain overseeing decommissioning of the instruments of war throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

In Winnipeg, it is expected that Joyce Bateman will campaign hard and strong mention will be made of her pro-Israel stand. The Liberals have several high profile people even now testing the waters for the Winnipeg South Centre nomination.

If there is a difference this coming election is that the Liberals seem to be emerging from a deep funk from years in office. The unpopular leaders, inability to fundraise and the stand pat attitude that marked elections across Canada during the recession are in the past. The Liberals are clawing out from oblivion.

An election is some time a way but the campaigning is already beginning. One wonders if Joyce Bateman going to Israel and being pro-Israel will be enough to win when the election does happen.

Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader is already creating concern among Tories who just barely won last election. The question is how much they ramp things up. Best guess: It is going to be a full throated election campaign.

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