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Zajdel, Itcush launch campaigns
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 28 avril 2011

Three days after Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler launched his campaign at the Gelber Conference Centre, the troops were out in force again on April 13, but this time for Conservative challenger Saulie Zajdel.

“Those who say that there are no differences between the two parties are dead wrong,” he said, flanked by Maxime Bernier, MP for the Beauce, and Neil Drabkin, the Conservative Party’s candidate for Westmount-Ville Marie.

He said that at a time when the US had lost 8 million jobs, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s leadership Canada had seen an increase of more than 500,000 jobs above recession levels. Emphasizing that the Conservative Party was a low-tax party that wouldn’t raise taxes, he said that this election was about both jobs and investment.

The Conservatives hope to repeat the upset victory of 2008 in which a Toronto Liberal stronghold went their way.

In the face of criticism that the Conservatives are using Israel as a wedge issue, Zajdel has stood firm in his belief that his party can best represent the interests of Jewish voters. “This country has never had as great and as staunch a defender of the state of Israel as Stephen Harper,” he said to a burst of applause.

However, the Conservatives aren’t the only challengers to the throne.

Jeff Itcush, NDP candidate

Saying that he’s “in it to win it”, the NDP’s Jeff Itcush was first out of the gate in launching his campaign on April 2. The event drew a multicultural crowd of more than 100 people of all ages, as well as high-profile figures like Outremont MP Thomas Mulcair, and Hampstead’s mayor William (Bill) Steinberg.

Itcush said that he prefers to be a “bridge-builder”, bringing people from different communities together. He spent two years travelling in Israel in 1999-2000, trying to understand the diversity of religious and cultural groups, and was present at the time of the historic Camp David talks.

“I support a viable Israel,” he said, while cautioning that any sustainable solution must include a Palestinian state. Itcush, like Cotler and Zajdel, has deep roots in the Jewish community, but doesn’t buy the idea that any one candidate has a monopoly on the Jewish vote or the community’s interests.

“It is exaggerated to assume that any one MP would be able to do something about the Middle East conflict in the short term,” he said. “Only negotiators on the ground can broker disputes about boundaries and borders,” he said, emphasizing that he supports a “prolonged and determined peace process” and a multi-partisan approach instead.
“There are other pressing international concerns. People in this riding have sons and daughters serving in Afghanistan. It’s time to bring our troops home,” he said.

[ Deborah Rankin ]

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