CJN Harper addresses Jewish crowd in Toronto
By ANDY LEVY-AJZENKOPF, Staff Reporter
Thursday, 18 September 2008
TORONTO — Speaking to a predominantly Jewish crowd at a rally in the mid-town Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper focused on his pro-Israel record and suggested that only his Conservative party will truly look out for Israel’s interests.
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Citing a day he remembers as politically “awkward” at the 2006 Francophonie summit, Harper recalled how, despite pressure from the international community, he refused to sign a resolution that chastised Israel for the Second Lebanon War and for what he described as “having defended its democracy” against Hezbollah, “an organization that wants [Israel] wiped from the face of the Earth.”
“I did not sign it, and I will not sign it,” Harper said to wild applause. “I found myself caught in the centre of a case of political correctness gone mad. What do you think [the opposition leaders] would have done under that kind of pressure at the Francophonie? Do you really know where our opponents stand?”
Harper then recalled an occasion in 2006 when various members of the opposition parties took part in a pro-Lebanon demonstration in Montreal, at which Hezbollah flags were on prominent display.
“They are the same people who condemned me when I stand beside the Dalai Lama, when I cut off aide to Hamas, when I took a tough line [on] Zimbabwe, when we refused to participate in the Durban II conference,”he said.
Harper made no direct reference to the Oct. 14 election date falling on the first day of Sukkot, but he said he chose the date so that it wouldn’t interfere with the upcoming Francophonie summit, scheduled to take place in Quebec City from Oct. 17 to 19.
Some 300 supporters, press and security personnel gathered at the Villa Colombo – a retirement home located near Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue in Eglinton-Lawrence, which is currently held by longtime Liberal MP Joe Volpe – to listen to Harper speak about the Conservative platform and its various planks on tax reform, support for Canadian troops in Afghanistan, child support and fiscal responsibility.
Also on hand was a group of Jewish women sporting aprons with the slogan “Bubbies for Harper.” Harper posed with the group for the evening’s opening photo op with the media.
The prime minister also spoke briefly in French, touting his government’s success in stopping the rancour between the country’s sovereigntists and federalists – a reference to his 2006 statement in the House of Commons where he acknowledged Quebec as a nation within Canada.
He also took a swipe at the Liberal party’s “Green Shift” proposal, saying “the last thing [Canadians] need is a tax that will make everything more expensive.”
In a nod toToronto, Harper said that if re-elected, his government would back the city’s bid for the 2015 Pan-Am games.
But the biggest cheers were reserved for Harper’s statements of his unflagging support for Israel.
“You should also ask yourselves… Who do you trust to be a voice for freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world?” Harper asked rhetorically before ending his address.
During his talk, hesuggested that he isn’t confident of winning the election, telling supporters they shouldn’t be “fooled” by the polls, because the vote could go “either way.”
After Harper left the microphone, the Conservative candidate for York Centre, former B’nai Brith Canada president Rochelle Wilner, thanked him, saying, “examples of your unwavering support for the Jewish community are legend and legion.”