Anthony Housefather, the lonely Liberal MP

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather seemed to have a bright political future ahead of him when he was first elected in 2015 in Mount Royal. The former mayor of Côte-Saint-Luc beat public relations specialist Jonathan Goldbloom to win the Liberal nomination in this legendary Montreal riding long held by Pierre Elliott Trudeau himself.

His victory against Conservative Robert Libman, a former provincial Equality Party MP, surprised many people, because the Stephen Harper government’s unwavering support for Israel had led a majority of Jewish voters in the country to abandon the Liberals during the elections. 2011 elections. Mr. Housefather nevertheless ended up overtaking Mr. Libman by more than 6,000 votes to keep Mont-Royal in the Liberal fold.

However, the Liberal caucus that Mr. Housefather joined in 2015 bore little resemblance to those of the past. Under Justin Trudeau, the Liberal team has become more left-wing and, above all, more diverse than ever. The new caucus had 14 Sikh deputies, compared to 6 Jewish. No less than 10 of the 11 Muslim deputies elected in 2015 were under the liberal banner. Two-thirds of the country’s Muslim voters voted for the Liberal Party of Canada (PLC) in 2015, allowing the party to capture almost all the seats in the multi-ethnic suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver.

Inevitably, the foreign policy of the new Trudeau government was influenced by the views of its diverse caucus members and its multi-faith electorate.

Since the start of the war in Gaza, we have witnessed a rise in the pro-Palestinian wing within the PLC, which is pushing the Trudeau government to break with Canada’s traditional foreign policy in favor of Israel and its right to defend itself . Mr. Housefather thus finds himself increasingly isolated within his party, while pro-Palestinian liberal deputies loudly denounce the Jewish state and its conduct in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have died since the October 7 attack by Hamas and the start of Israel’s war to eliminate the terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative Party of Canada continues to line up solidly behind Israel, without a single Conservative MP deviating from the party line.

This week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, found herself at the heart of negotiations between the PLC and the New Democratic Party (NDP) regarding a motion which called on Ottawa to recognize the State of Palestine. The Trudeau government then risked finding itself in embarrassment, because dozens of Liberal MPs were preparing to support the NDP motion. Although not binding, the adoption of such a motion would have exposed the divisions within the Liberal caucus, in addition to attracting the wrath of the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Canada’s official position on the creation of a Palestinian state follows that of the United States and other G7 countries. As hammered out by Mme Joly during the House debate on NDP MP Heather McPherson’s motion, “the only way to achieve lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians is a negotiated political solution.”

After hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Mme Joly convinced Mme McPherson to accept modifications to his motion in order to demand, among other things, that Hamas lay down its arms and, above all, that instead of recognizing the State of Palestine, Canada works “toward the establishment of the State of Palestine as part of a negotiated two-state solution. Thanks to this compromise, the Trudeau government was able to keep up appearances: the motion was adopted by 204 votes to 117.

Only three Liberal MPs voted against the motion. The MPs for Winnipeg South Center and Eglinton-Lawrence (ridings with some of the highest proportions of Jewish voters in the country), Ben Carr and Marco Mendicino, opposed the motion without questioning their membership of the PLC. It was quite different for Mr. Housefather, who now says he is “considering” his future within the Liberal caucus. “I really felt last night that a line had been crossed,” he said the day after the motion was adopted. “When my party members stood up to give Heather McPherson and the NDP a standing ovation, I began to wonder if I still belonged to that party. »

This is not the first time that Mr. Housefather has felt abandoned by his own party.

Last May, he was the only MP, from all parties, to vote against Bill C-13, which amended the Official Languages ​​Act, due to the reference to the Quebec Charter of the French Language which found there. For this English-speaking MP, the fact of recognizing this Quebec legislative text in a federal law had the effect of giving legitimacy to the use of the derogation provision by the government of François Legault during the adoption of Bill 96, a law “against which the entire minority linguistic community that the Official Languages ​​Act is supposed to protect is almost unanimously opposed.”

It must be said that Mr. Housefather’s beliefs on Israel and the war in Gaza align almost perfectly with the positions of Mr. Poilievre’s Conservatives. However, it would be surprising to see Mr. Housefather join this caucus; Mr. Poilievre’s party also supported C-13. But who knows? Politics often leads to strange alliances.

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