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With Mulcair to Retire, Will Outremont Elect a Jewish Member of Parliament?

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Jan. 19, 2018

MONTREAL – Will Montreal have a second Jewish Member of Parliament before the end of 2018?

Last month, former federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair announced he intends to resign from his House of Commons seat in the riding of Outremont when he joins the faculty of a yet-to-be-named university in June. Following a successful career in provincial politics, Mulcair jumped to the federal scene in 2007 and stole the long-time Liberal stronghold of Outremont. Ironically, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau once wanted to run there but then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion chose journalist Jocelyn Coulon instead.

Mulcair would go on to win three more elections in Outremont, and was instrumental in the NDP “orange wave” that swept the province in 2011. The 2015 election was his first and last as leader of the party and as candidate for prime minister.

The federal Liberals presently have one elected Jewish MP in Quebec: Mount Royal’s Anthony Housefather. But could Rachel Bendayan or Russell Copeman, both Jewish, be next?  Both are being touted as potential candidates who can win back Outremont for the Liberals when a by-election is called.

Bendayan is a 37-year-old litigation lawyer by profession who came second in the last election to Mulcair. She is a resident of Outremont and now works as Chief of Staff to Federal Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger, who also serves as leader of the Government.

Based on her Twitter posts (she’s also been spotted at various community events in Outremont in the past months), it appears that Bendayan would like to retain the nomination. On Dec. 21, soon after Mulcair announced his intention to step down, she tweeted in French: “My roots are in the riding. I live in Outremont and I am convinced that residents of Outremont need a strong voice in the Trudeau government and not in the opposition.”

Prime Minister Trudeau has not commented on the riding. In all likelihood, if Mulcair resigns in June, a by-election will be called for next fall.

If Bendayan does not get the nomination, a potential star candidate being mentioned is Copeman.

A former Quebec Member of the National Assembly and more recently the mayor of the large Montreal borough of Côte des Neiges (NDG), which encompasses part of the federal Outremont riding, Copeman is an experienced politician.

When I bumped into Copeman at the local grocery store the other day he merely said he’s considering his career options. “My wife did the groceries for 30 years and now here I am,” he laughed. “Yesterday, I did some dusting around the house.”

Mike Cohen is B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec news bureau chief, a veteran writer and municipal politician. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecohencsl.