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Veteran Conservative politician has deep roots in the Ontario riding

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Winner of 3 elections at the provincial level, Gila Martow is now seeking the federal Conservative nomination in Thornhill (Photo: Facebook)

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Federal Conservatives in Thornhill will be nominating a new candidate for the party in the new year after longtime Thornhill Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Kent, who has held the riding since 2008, announced his departure from federal politics.

Thornhill is one of the many 905-area seats surrounding the City of Toronto that the Conservatives need to win in order to form government in the next election. According to Elections Canada’s website, Thornhill’s population is approximately 29.5% Jewish. The riding is home to many synagogues and Jewish schools.

Two well-known Conservatives are seeking the federal Conservative nomination. In the second part of our candidate interviews, Gila Martow recently spoke with TheJ.ca. The current Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament for Thornhill, she has held the seat provincially since February 2014 and is looking to make the jump to the federal stage.

Martow pointed to the strong roots that she has in Thornhill. Originally from Montreal, she has lived in the riding with her family for over three decades. “I live in Thornhill. I have never lived anywhere else since 1989,” says Martow.

Prior to her election as an MPP in February 2014, she was already involved in many aspects of community life in Thornhill and in York Region. She worked as an optometrist at the Markham Stouffville Clinic for over ten years. Before that, she worked as an optometrist in both North York and in Keswick, Ontario.

Martow ran for Vaughan City Council in 2010, served as president of a local ratepayers association, and was a member of the parents association at the CHAT (Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto) Richmond Hill Campus. Martow also established a local non-partisan Facebook page for Thornhill issues. The Facebook group, which is currently run by her son, has over 2,000 members. “It’s been no secret to Thornhill that I have experience at every level, whether it’s education, the local community, transit and traffic concerns, health concerns including this pandemic. And of course, I’ve been a big advocate for the Jewish community and the Jewish homeland, the State of Israel,” she says.

As an MPP, Martow helped to pass an anti-BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) motion at the Ontario Legislature in 2016. The motion passed by a margin of 49-5. However, prior to the motion passing, she had to explain to some of her colleagues why the provincial legislature needed to become involved in what some saw as an issue of federal jurisdiction.

“I explained that our universities needed a very clear message, and I had to explain to my colleagues what our Jewish students were facing on the campuses. They were quite shocked and unprepared for the type of harassment that our students were feeling,” she says. During debate on the motion, Martow told a personal story of how, when she was a student at the University of Waterloo, a swastika was drawn on the door of her room in residence. “It was a little bit scary. I was the only Jewish girl in the entire residence of over 2,000 people,” Martow recalls.

Martow, who speaks French, says that it is important for the Erin O’Toole-led Conservative Party to have candidates and MP’s who speak French. “I think he needs people on his team and his caucus who are bilingual in French and have experience. It’s not enough to just speak French, but to have experience representing governments to constituents in Francophone regions which often have very different concerns than the constituencies/the ridings that we are personally representing.”

As of December 2020, the Conservative Party of Canada holds only 10 out of Quebec’s 78 seats Given the significant number of federal ridings in Quebec, and the traditional strength that the Liberal Party has in Quebec, the Conservative Party needs to make gains in the province in order to defeat the Trudeau Liberals in the next election.

“I look forward to using my background in the medical field as an optometrist and using my background with the Francophonie to help Erin O’Toole in the Francophone regions all across Canada,” says Martow.

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In addition to French, Martow also speaks Hebrew. As a Grade 4 student, she spent a year in Israel studying at an Israeli public school. In light of the recent announcement that Israel and Morocco will be establishing diplomatic relations, she explains that for the past several years, the Muslim Moroccan Association of Toronto and the Moroccan Jewish Community of Toronto have been doing events together. “For the last 7 years, we’ve been doing a couple of events, at least two events together a year. Myself with the Muslim and Jewish associations of Moroccans. It’s just been a delight,” she says.

Martow speaks about her record of bringing different communities together. “I think there’s a lot of outreach that can be done between communities. I’ve done my part that I can as an MPP,” she says.

Martow tells the story of how, as MPP for Thornhill, she read a speech in Farsi at a Norwuz event with about 500 people in attendance. The speech had been translated into Farsi for her by Persian volunteer named Ari Moghimi. After delivering the speech, “It was dead silent for that split second and then they stood up and applauded. I’ve never had that, except maybe at Jewish National Fund when we announced that my anti-BDS motion had passed,” explains Martow. Moghimi has endorsed Martow’s candidacy for the federal Conservative nomination.

Thornhill also has a large Korean community and she says, “Certainly the Korean community is very interested in coming to our Jewish community events.” 

MPP Gila Martow points to her years of work helping ethnic communities in Thornhill as an advantage for a potential federal candidacy for the O’Toole Conservatives (Photo: gilamartow.nationbuilder.com)

With respect to the logistics of holding a nomination race during the COVID-19 pandemic, artow explains that “We’ve all gotten used to using our devices more than we would normally. I think that nomination campaigns are about selling memberships which traditionally has been done on the phone.” She adds that “I don’t think it changes the nomination so much as the actual voting, because the voting we’re hearing will be done electronically, and we’ve had electronic votes in the past.”

Turning to the local issues in Thornhill, Martow stresses the difficulties that small businesses are facing in light of the pandemic. “I’m really concerned about small businesses here in Thornhill. They’re hurting. All of York Region is hurting,” she says. As for the controversy about big box stores, Martow says “I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be open, but I think everybody should be open with safety precautions in place, with restrictions. I think we have to work with every type of business and find a way, if possible, that they can be open safely.” She adds that, Once this pandemic is over, I think Thornhill wants their businesses to survive. They don’t want to see a lot of boarded-up stores. They don’t want to see people not being able to afford to live in their community and having to move elsewhere and have foreclosures on homes.”

Other concerns facing Thornhill include transit and, more recently, coyote attacks.

To the first issue, Martow says that Thornhill is very anxious to see shovels go in the ground for a Yonge Subway. “I’ve got my blue shovel ready.”

Coyote encounters have skyrocketed in the area, as Martow explains. “Dogs have been injured or worse. Quite a few of them. And people can’t put their small children or pets on their deck or in their backyard safely.” She has been advocating for residents and working with the Ministry of Natural Resources as well as Vaughan animal services to address the coyote issue.

Moving forward to the next federal election, the Conservative Party will need to win more 905 area seats surrounding Thornhill in order to form government. Martow believes that in order to accomplish that, the Conservative Party needs to find candidates who are a good fit for the ridings and says it’s important that “people know who you are and what you’ve done for the community and that you’ve been involved.”

Jonathan Mackenzie is a lawyer in Toronto. He has a B.A. in Political Science (with Distinction) from York University and a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Jonathan previously served as a staff writer for Osgoode Hall’s Obiter Dicta Student Newspaper.

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We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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