Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
My Best Political Experience: Ariel Gregory Shapiro

Ariel Gregory Shapiro, of Montréal, QC, is studying Honours Political Science at McGill University, with a Minor in Economics. He is Vice-President (Youth) of the Mount Royal Federal Liberal Association, and founding Treasurer of the Parti Libéral du Québec campus club at McGill. This summer, Ariel worked in Ottawa as a tour guide in the Centre Block of Parliament.

My best political experience so far has been losing. This past year, I was an volunteer involved with two leadership campaigns – Marc Garneau’s for the Liberal Party of Canada, and Raymond Bachand’s for the Parti libéral du Québec – that did not end up winning. The fact that both of these campaigns ended abruptly in the same week in March 2013 had me wondering if I was just bad luck on leadership campaigns (echoes of “It’s not you, it’s me” from Seinfeld)! Looking back, I recognize how valuable the experience was. I will always be proud to have supported Mr. Garneau and Mr. Bachand, men of experience and wisdom. Yet as the next elections draw nearer and nearer, I am excited and confident to support our new leaders, Justin Trudeau and Philippe Couillard.

Volunteering on the two leadership campaigns was first and foremost a learning experience. I was able to observe and participate in many of the elements of campaigning I had learned at the CJPAC Fellowship conference in Ottawa – crystallizing a complex message into a few succinct priorities, identifying and targeting supporters, getting out the vote, etc. Making phone calls to potential voters is learning about democracy in a way that you can’t in a political science class. It is also a labour of explanation: “no, sir, joining the Liberal Party does not mean that your name will be on the ballot in the next election!” In the many hours I spent making calls from the Raymond Bachand headquarters in Montreal, the most exciting part was being able to listen to and participate in the strategic decisions that were being made – which ridings should be targeted? How should the message be adapted for different demographic groups? On the Garneau campaign, attending and helping out at many of his Montreal events, was an amazing opportunity to meet people – including Mr. Garneau himself – who genuinely believe in and are willing to work for in a better future for Canada.

The PLQ leadership convention in Montreal was an amazing opportunity to meet Liberals from across Quebec and to be at the heart of the action. A highlight was being there for the inspirational speech by former Premier Jean Charest. While the end of both leadership campaigns that week was disappointing, I was impressed by the magnanimity of the victorious teams and the willingness of Justin Trudeau and Philippe Couillard to be inclusive, reach out, and move forward.

The most important aspect of the leadership campaigns was meeting people. Through the campaign, I got more involved in my local PLQ riding association, and continued my involvement as Vice-President (Youth) of the Mount Royal LPC riding association. I was able to work with young Liberals from different schools, cities, and provinces – some of whom I had already met through CJPAC. And of course, the fact that my involvement on both campaigns was predominantly in French was a great opportunity to work on my second language.

The most important moment of the leadership campaigns actually came after they were over, when I ran into Marc Garneau at the Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) rally in Montreal. What I will always remember was that despite having withdrawn from the leadership campaign, he seemed genuinely happy. With a big smile, he told me how he and Justin Trudeau were on excellent terms, and that he was excited to find out which Critic post he would be assigned. It was at that moment that I realized that losing a campaign is not the end of the world. We move on to fight another day, and in the process, we learn more about politics, Canada, and ourselves.

So yes, I now appreciate that losing those two campaigns was a formative, positive experience. But I am confident that with Justin Trudeau and Philippe Couillard at the helm of the LPC and the PLQ respectively, the days of losing are behind us.

– Ariel Gregory Shapiro