Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler’s Mount-Royal riding has a large Jewish population, which poses a huge problem for him on election day.
Oct. 14, the day Stephen Harper chose for the election, is a major Jewish holiday, Sukkot. Mr. Cotler says his volunteers, about 25 per cent of whom are Jewish, and his volunteer organizer, who happens to be his wife, Ariela, will be in synagogue on that day. As well, Jews cannot drive or write on Sukkot, which means no marking of ballots or driving to polling stations.
Mr. Cotler, a former justice minister and a human-rights scholar, can’t even vote that day; he’ll be voting in an advance poll and encouraging his Jewish constituents to do the same. He’s not too worried that this will cost him his seat. Rather, he is concerned and angry, he says, because Mr. Harper and his government have disenfranchised Jews on election day.
He says, “It prejudices the right of the Jewish minority to equal participation in the electoral process.” “The point is,” he writes in a paper on the issue, “that many Jews will not be able to participate as volunteers on the crucial election day itself, be it as drivers, campaign workers, telephone contacts, and the like; nor can they work for Elections Canada that day.”