Tories appeal to Jewish community ahead of Toronto byelection, allege ‘betrayal’ by Trudeau

The federal Conservatives are asking the Jewish community in a Toronto riding to send Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a message about his “betrayal” by voting for the Tory candidate in an upcoming byelection.

Voters in Toronto—St. Paul’s will pick a new MP on June 24 to replace longtime Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett, who retired after more than two decades.

Trudeau has been trailing in all major polls and insiders are watching to see if that has an impact in what has been a comfortable Liberal seat since the ’90s.

The Conservative party recently circulated a letter received by Jewish households in the riding detailing what it called Trudeau’s “silence” about a rise in “Jew hatred” since the Israel-Hamas conflict began last fall.

“We can no longer afford leaders who are silent in the face of this existential threat,” reads the letter, signed by deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who represents a Greater Toronto Area riding and is herself Jewish.

Story continues below advertisement

It goes on to accuse Trudeau of “the silence of indifference, the silence of cowardice and the silence of complicity,” and of “driving a wave of antisemitism, putting Jewish communities at risk.”

The party said the Liberals have failed to protect Jewish businesses and community centres from violence and said Trudeau “surrounds himself with MPs who call for an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza.”

The letter ends by pointing to the June 24 byelection, telling voters “this is your opportunity to send a message to Justin Trudeau and tell him that you’re outraged by his silence that threatens us all.”

“By voting for common sense Conservative candidate, Don Stewart, you can send Justin Trudeau a message about his betrayal of our Jewish community,” it says.

The letter directs the recipient to scan QR code on the envelope if they plan on voting Conservative, which asks them to provide their information in a form titled “Let’s bring it home.”

Neither the party nor Poilievre’s office has responded to questions about whether the letter was targeted to Jewish voters — and if so, how — or distributed more widely.

Data from the 2021 census show Toronto—St. Paul’s is the riding with the fifth-largest proportion of Jewish residents in the country, at 15 per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

Philippe Fournier of, which publishes a statistical model of electoral projections based on polling, demographics and elections history, suggests the Conservative party’s appeal to the riding’s Jewish community could affect the race if people turn out. But while making such direct asks in the form of a letter could pay off in the short term, it could also be risky longer term.

Fournier pointed out that there are more federal ridings with sizable Muslim populations. Trudeau has struggled to satisfy both Jewish and Muslim leaders with his government’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants in southern Israel and the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Poilievre has maintained that Israel has a right to defend itself and places the blame for the mounting death toll of Palestinian civilians on Hamas.

The Conservative leader has also accused Trudeau of trying to appeal to both sides of the conflict, which has led to months of protests and counter-protests in cities like Toronto.

The Liberal party has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Longtime Toronto Liberal MP John McKay, while speaking to reporters last week, acknowledged that people’s feelings about the conflict in the Middle East are a factor in the byelection race.

“It is competitive,” he said, adding the Israel-Hamas conflict is among “intersecting issues” that are making the race for the once-safe seat a tough fight.

Story continues below advertisement

“But we’re up for the fight.”  Fournier said the fact that the outcome is even a question “says a lot” about the Liberals’ fortunes in what has been a party stronghold for years. Trudeau has consistently swept Toronto seats since coming to power in 2015.

Trudeau and a host of other cabinet ministers have been campaigning in the riding for the past several weeks.

Liberal MP Charles Sousa said this week that people in the riding are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Agencies like the United Nations have been sounding the alarm about the rising death toll and risk of starvation for months.

Sousa also said when he’s been door-knocking people are surprised to learn there is even a byelection happening.

Fournier said the low voter turnout expected for the byelection could be made worse by the fact vote itself is happening in summer.

— With files from Mia Rabson

Sponsored content