Nov. 27, 2020
By LILA SARICK
Two women, Gila Martow and Melissa Lantsman, both Jewish and both with deep roots in the Conservative party, have announced they are seeking the federal Tory nomination in Thornhill riding.
Last month, Conservative MP Peter Kent, who has represented the riding since 2008, said he would not run again.
Martow, 59, and currently the MPP for the riding, says she was “inundated with messages” from Thornhill residents who urged her to seek the nomination when Kent announced he was retiring from politics.
“My team thinks that we need effective local representation to hold the riding blue (Conservative) in the next federal election,” she told the CJR.
Martow, an optometrist, was first elected in 2014. Recently, she was credited with proposing legislation that eased the rules on patio seating for restaurants during the COVID pandemic. She is currently parliamentary assistant to Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney.
In 2016, Martow introduced a motion making Ontario the first province to reject the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Thornhill, which has the highest concentration of Jews of any riding, estimated at 37 percent, cannot be considered a safe Conservative seat, she said. Although Kent held the seat for 12 years, he worked very hard every election to keep it a Tory stronghold, she said.
The nomination meeting will be held early in the new year. Martow said it’s unlikely the Conservative party would appoint a candidate, as the federal Liberal party did recently in two high-profile Toronto byelections. The public “wants to see strong candidates and the way that you get those candidates is by having those nomination meetings,” she said.
Interest in the race is high, and party memberships “are flying out the door.”
A few weeks ago, Martow said that she and Lantsman agreed that Lantsman would seek the provincial seat in Thornhill and that the two candidates had agreed to support each other.
However, Lantsman said she is attracted to federal politics.
“It’s where my interest is, it’s where I spent most of my time in politics. I think I would bring a new fresh voice to the Conservative party under [leader] Erin O’Toole and to the constituents in Thornhill.”
Lantsman, 36, was chief spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford during his 2018 election campaign. From 2007 to 2015, she served as communications director for federal ministers of finance, foreign affairs, trade and environment.
“I think it’s important to bring a new generation under the Conservative banner. We’ve lost many, particularly around the last election, that didn’t see themselves in the party,” she said.
“I’ve spent the better part of my life speaking on issues that I just don’t think we speak about enough.” Among the issues Lanstman wants to raise are gender and racial equality, and the environment.
A federal election could be called anytime, depending on the fortunes of the minority Liberal government, Martow said. “We need to be ready for a spring election.”
In the meantime, the competitive nomination race is a good sign for the party, Lantsman said.
“Having strong women with a history of activism and community involvement in the Conservative party speaks volumes to what this party is going to attract in the next election.”