(May 3, 2019 / JNS) With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau falling in the polls due to allegedly pressuring the country’s attorney general not to prosecute the Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., the Conservative Party, or Tories, led by leader Andrew Scheer, has been trending upwards ahead of the country’s elections this October. If elected, the latter would likely shift the Canada-Israel relationship to include at least some of the Trump administration’s playbook.
The Globe and Mail in February that Trudeau pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould to defer criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for allegedly committing corruption and fraud by paying almost $48 million to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, the firm could be ineligible from receiving federal government contracts for 10 years.
Shortly after resigning in February, Wilson-Raybould gave damaging testimony in front of the House of Commons about the affair.
However, Martin Sampson of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs told JNS that amid the scandal, “It is too early to make predictions about the outcome of the next election,” noting there hasn’t been “any distinction between Prime Minster Trudeau’s position and that of the Liberal party itself.”
“The relationship between Canada and Israel remains strong, and Canada is widely considered to be one of Israel’s greatest friends and allies,” he said. “The relationship has continued and deepened across successive governments, including this one.”
Sampson mentioned that an “important metric we track is how Canada votes” at the United Nations.
“The Trudeau government has maintained the voting record established by [Prime Minister] Harper at the [U.N. General Assembly],” he said. “Trudeau has also spoken out unambiguously in support of Israel and against BDS many times.”
In January, Trudeau said that “it’s not right to discriminate or to make someone feel unsafe on [a university] campus because of their religion, and unfortunately, the BDS movement is often linked to those kinds of frames.”
Additionally, Trudeau’s administration has designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as a terrorist group.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
Nonetheless, following the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy in May 2018, Trudeau said his administration has no intention of following suit.
On the other hand, Scheer’s party overwhelmingly approved a resolution at its policy convention in Halifax in August that—were the party to win the next majority government—recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the country’s embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Scheer indicated his enthusiasm to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital just after he was elected party leader in May 2017.
Another example of “the strong and deepening ties between these sister democracies” Sampson gave was “the modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) [that is] is currently being ratified by Parliament.”
Canadian political pundit Neil Macdonald echoed Sampson’s sentiment.
“It is my humble opinion that Canada’s position on Israel/Palestine doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Harper was one hundred per cent pro-Israel all the time, without exception, and Canada’s actual policies remained static,” he told JNS.
“As for Trudeau’s Israel policies, they seem to be pretty much the same as Harper’s as far as I can tell, the difference being that Trudeau doesn’t talk about it all the time,” he added.
Unlike the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, the Liberal Party in Canada has not been plagued by accusations of anti-Semitism.
However, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has shown resistance to a pro-Israel agenda.
In February, the party opposed the updated Canada-Israel free trade agreement, citing that the accord doesn’t deal with Palestinian rights and doesn’t require labeling products made in Judea and Samaria, which NDP member Alexandre Boulerice called “illegal Israeli settlements.”
The Canadian elections will be held on Oct. 21.
If elections were held now, the Conservatives would win 34.9 percent of the vote, the Liberals 32.8 percent and NDP 16.6 percent, according to a Nanos research poll published in early April.