Liberals want to change election date because of Diwali – but wouldn’t do the same for Jewish holiday
Liberals want to change election date because of Diwali – but wouldn’t do the same for Jewish holiday

The Liberal government’s claim that its proposed postponement of the 2025 election is to avoid Diwali rings hollow for Jewish Canadians. In 2019, they sought accommodation by the government to avoid an overlap of the election with a Jewish holiday, but the concerns fell on deaf ears.

The Liberals introduced a bill to alter the Elections Act that moves the scheduled 2025 election date from Oct. 20 to Oct. 27. Cynics have pointed out that the delay makes dozens of MPs eligible for pensions, but Democratic Institutions Minister Dominic LeBlanc says it was just to avoid overlap with Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.  

LeBlanc said the overall bill is designed to strengthen Canada’s democracy, but news of the rescheduling stirred up memories of a similar request made by Chani Aryeh-Bain five years ago.

Aryeh-Bain was the Conservative candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton−Lawrence in the 2019 election.

An orthodox Jewish woman running in a riding with a large Jewish population, Aryeh-Bain attempted to have the Oct. 21 election date changed to avoid overlap with the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret, which was to begin Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 22. 

Eglinton−Lawrence was home to about 5,000 Orthodox Jewish voters in 2019 and the previous three federal elections had been decided by 2,000 to 4,000 votes. 

Aryeh-Bain took her case to Federal Court. The court urged the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada to reconsider, but he ultimately opted to keep the election date as scheduled.

In an interview with True North Wire, she noted the apparent “double standard.”

“Imagine my surprise when I read that the Trudeau government was tinkering with the Elections Act so as to accommodate the voters who celebrate the Diwali holiday by  moving the date forward by one week,” Aryeh-Bain said.

Additionally, the 2019 advanced polling day of Oct. 12 conflicted with the sabbath, and the Oct. 14 advance polling day also coincided with the Jewish holiday festival of Sukkot.

Orthodox Jews are prohibited from a range of activities, including writing, driving, and working, on the sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday each week..

“Why can’t (the government) abide by the decision they made in regards to Shemini Atzeret? Diwali observers can vote in advance polls, daily at returning offices or mail in their votes. Why the double standard?” asked Aryeh-Bain.

The chief electoral officer in 2019 said “there is no such thing as a perfect election day, especially in a country as diverse as Canada. There are always Canadians who are unable to vote on election day.”

Given the legal precedent set by the 2019 Elections Canada ruling, the government need not be selective in its observance of religious holidays. 

“Even if one wants to posit that this decision has nothing to do with the lack of fairness towards the Jewish voters and their religious & democratic rights, then why else would Trudeau make the exact move that he denied the Jewish community? “ asked  Aryeh-Bain.

Aryeh-Bain suspects pension eligibility more than religious accommodation might explain the 2025 delay.

“Upon closer inspection, therein may lie an additional reason: the MPs’ coveted gold-plated pensions,” said Aryeh-Bain. “Moving the election date forward by one week ensures at least 80 MPs will qualify for their pensions. Many of the affected MPs fear they will lose the next election and their ticket to retirement bliss. Moving the date is the easiest and best solution.”

All MPs receive a pension after six years of service, meaning any MP elected Oct. 21 2019 will only reach that six-year threshold if the election is after that date in 2025. 

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