York Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence could be most affected by not moving election date

More details and assessments of the election date and its likely impact on orthodox Jewish voters. Based on the 2011 National Household Survey, Canadian Jews form 5 percent or more of the population in 14 ridings (RM Ridings Jewish 5 percent):

Experts say they will be watching a few key ridings in and around Toronto as they try to gauge how Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Pérrault’s decision not to recommend moving the Oct. 21 election date to accommodate Orthodox and other observant Jewish voters will affect the election outcome.

“The chief electoral officer is an independent official. None of the parties are accountable for the decisions made by his office, so I don’t imagine that there will be much, if any, political fallout,” said Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research, in an email statement to The Hill Times. “The impact for the Liberals and other parties might be if the Jewish vote turnout is dampened by this decision. I am not certain that will be the case, but I don’t think that would be an important factor in the next election, although it might be a modest factor in a few ridings.”

Mr. Graves said in past elections, Jewish Canadians primarily voted Liberal, but “that has not been the case for some time. The Conservatives did quite well with the Jewish vote under Harper, and I am guessing they will continue to do so.”

Mr. Graves added that the Liberals also do “fairly well” and that he is unclear how “a relatively small vote, which does not lean dramatically one way or the other, which may or may not have reduced turnout, will have much impact in October.”

According to data collected over the past six months by Campaign Research, Jewish Canadians favour Liberals over Conservatives, 42 per cent to 36 per cent. This data is not broken down by riding, or whether those polled strictly observe every holiday. A 2018 study titled “2018 Survey of Jews in Canada by the Environics Institute, the University of Toronto, and York University reported Jewish Canadians preferring the Liberals over the Conservatives by 36 per cent to 32 per cent. This data is also not broken down by riding or religiosity.

Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research, and Quito Maggi, CEO of Mainstreet Research, said that statistically, the more religious an individual is, the more likely they are to vote for a Conservative Party. An article published in the Canadian Political Science Review by Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, a University of Waterloo sociology professor, found that in 2011 “religious citizens were overall more likely to vote Conservative.”

Finding accurate statistics on the number of Jewish Canadians, and their level of religiosity, in a given riding is difficult because the census only asks about religion every 10 years. The 2011 census asked about religion, and reported 309,650 Jewish Canadians. The 2016 census did not, nor was Jewish included as a checkable box in the ethnic origin section. There was, however, a space where respondents could write in ethnicities that weren’t listed. As a result, the 2016 census reported only 143,665 Jewish Canadians, a 53.6 per cent decline in just five years. Though the percentage of Jewish Canadians has been steadily declining since 1991, the rate of decline is much lower than that, according to Statistics Canada.

On July 26, Statistics Canada released a report that sought remedy the errors of the 2016 census. The report estimated that if past response patterns remained consistent, the number of Jewish Canadians would be between 270,000 and 298,000.

Further complicating the effort to accurately count the number of Jewish-Canadians is the 2018 report by the Environics Institute, the University of Toronto, and York University. It estimated there were 392,000 Jewish-Canadians in 2018.

In the report, the authors said because “Canadian Jews constitute only about one percent of the Canadian population, the use of standard survey research methods was not a feasible option given the high costs of using probability sampling to identify and recruit participants.”

To try and produce as accurate a report as possible within the available budget, they surveyed 2,335 individuals online or over the phone between Feb. 10 and Sept. 30, 2018. It focused on Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, the cities with the largest Jewish populations in Canada. The data were weighted according to population, age, gender, and marital status. The study was not fully based on probability sampling, meaning a margin of error cannot be calculated.

The Environics study breaks down the Jewish population by city, not riding, like the census does. The 2011 census reports the five ridings with the largest percentage of Jewish residents as Thornhill (22.04 per cent), Mont-Royal (22.07 per cent), Eglinton-Lawrence (16.87 per cent), York Centre (14.37 per cent), and Toronto-St Paul’s (12.11 per cent).

The 2016 census has the same ridings in the top five, but with lower numbers in a slightly different order. It reports Thornhill (13.4 per cent), Mont-Royal (8.4 per cent), York Centre (7 per cent), Eglinton-Lawrence (6.6 per cent), and Toronto St. Paul’s (4.5 per cent).

Of those five ridings, four are held by Liberals. Thornhill is the only Conservative riding, held since 2008 by Peter Kent. 338 Canada’s Philippe Fournier categorizes Mont-Royal, held by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, as the only truly safe seat. In 2015, Mr. Housefather beat Conservative nominee Robert Libman by just under 14 percentage points, or 5,986 votes. Thornhill and Toronto-St. Paul’s, held since 1997 by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, are considered likely to stay in Conservative and Liberal hands, respectively.

Despite 338 Canada’s projection, Mr. Maggi said he is going to be watching Thornhill.

“If the Orthodox community votes in substantially lower numbers, given where we see the overall Liberal numbers in Toronto and the GTA right now, that riding could be competitive,” he said.

The 2011 census reported 34,956 Jewish Canadians in Thornhill, while the 2011 census reported 15,025. Mr. Kent won by just under 15 percentage points in 2015, or 13,516 votes.

Mari Canseco, president of Research Co, and Mr. Maggi both said York Centre will be the riding most affected by the decision given the close 2015 election and the number of voters who could be affected.

Liberal incumbent Michael Levitt, who is Jewish, won by just 1,238 votes in 2015, and 338 Canada has it leaning Conservative heading into October. The 2016 census reported 7,270 Jewish Canadian residents, whereas the 2011 census reported 14,551.

Mr. Canseco said the margin of victory in 2015 already meant York-Centre would be competitive in 2019. He hesitated to say if lower turnout in the observant Jewish community would benefit a single party, though, because “it’s tough to try to look at the decision as something that is going to bring down turnout for a specific party and not others, because we just don’t have the data for it.”

The 2018 Quebec provincial election coincided with the same Jewish holiday, Shemini Atzeret. The election was also not moved, and the heavily-Jewish riding of D’Arcy-McGee saw turnout drop by 26 points, from 72 per cent in the 2015 provincial election to just 46.5 per cent in the 2018 election.

338 Canada lists Eglinton-Lawrence as a toss up. In 2015, Liberal Marco Mendicino won Eglinton-Lawrence by 3,490 votes, or 6.25 percentage points. The 2011 census reported that there were 19,903 Jewish Canadians living in the riding, while the 2016 census reported just 7,490.

Mr. Mendicino is running again, and is being challenged by Conservative candidate Chani Ayreh-Bain. Ms. Aryeh-Bain is Orthodox Jewish herself and was one of the lead plaintiffs in the original case that sought to get Elections Canada to move the election date.

Ms. Aryeh-Bain said she was disappointed by Mr. Perrault’s decision, and that she is dedicating a “fair amount of resources to the Orthodox community.”

She said she will focus on informing voters of the various options available to them. Elections Canada also said in a statement that they would be working with Jewish organizations and members of the Jewish community to inform voters of their options. Ms. Areyh-Bain said that even though there are alternative options, it will still be difficult for members of the observant and Orthodox Jewish community to access them.

“The options aren’t great, because the advanced poll days all fall on either the Sabbath or a holiday, or the eve of Sabbath or the eve of a holiday, so they’re really pressed for time,” she said. “The only other option is to vote at a returning office, or use an absentee ballot. It’s really not ideal.”

Mr. Maggi said he didn’t expect the fact that the government did not move the election date could be used as political ammunition against the Liberals.

“It’s important to remember the Jewish community, just like any other community, has other ballot box questions. I don’t think this issue of the election date is going to be the single ballot question. Those people still care about the same things that most of the general population care about, education, health care, the economy and jobs, the environment. Those are much more likely to be ballot box questions for any group, regardless of their ethnicity.”

Source: York Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence could be most affected by not moving election date

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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