Irwin Cotler lost the Jewish vote
In the 2011 electon, the Conservatives achieved one of their key goals: they breached "fortress Toronto".
They didn't accompish at least one other: making inroads into Montreal.
Arguably they may have had the best opportunity to do this in Mount Royal, where they matched Saulie Zajdel up against longtime Jewish MP Irwin Cotler.
Leading up to the election, they worked very hard to lure the Jewish and ethnic votes away from Cotler. In the end, it turns out they were successful in luring the Jewish vote, but failed to win the ethnic vote.
“Clearly, there was an erosion,” Cotler admitted. “I think it’s correct that I lost the majority of the Jewish vote. But I won, importantly, in the cultural communities.”
The Conservatives won good portions of the Jewish vote by taking a strong foreign policy stand on Israel, something the Liberals had declined to do. They had deluded themselves into thinking being an "honest broker" means being a weak ally.
“People said to me directly, ‘Irwin, you’re a great guy, but we have to vote for Harper," Cotler recounted. "He’s there for us. We have to be there for him.’”
But the shift in the Jewish vote was not merely due to the Conservatives earning it with sound policy on Israel. The shift also occurred because of a distrubing and disappointing flier distributed in Mount Royal inferring that Cotler was soft on anti-Semitism.
To at least a small degree, those fliers accoumplished their goal.
“I had some painful encounters," Cotler said. "I would go into seniors’ residences, and they would ask me, ‘Why is Ignatieff an antisemite?’ ...Negative attack ads do work,”
Unfortunately, it seems like those fliers did do their dirty work. However, they were able to do it because the Liberals left themselves vulnerable. While Irwin Cotler was denouncing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmaedinejad for incitement to genocide, Michael Ignatieff was suggesting Israel is a war criminal.
It doesn't excuse dirty campaign tactics, and in the leadup to the 2011 election, all of Canada's political parties have been guilty of it; the Tories are no different.
But the best way to appeal to the Jewish vote is to be solid on their values. When one of the key valeus is supporting the Middle Eastern state with the best human rights record of any of them, this shouldn't be difficult.
It wasn't the voters of Mount Royal who failed Irwin Cotler. The Liberal Party leadership failed Irwin Cotler. It's time for them to go back to the drawing board and get those policies right.