Jonathan Goldbloom eyes Liberal seat in Mount Royal

jonathan goldbloomThe federal election may be a year off, but the battle for the Mount Royal riding has begun with the unexpected entry of a new candidate for the Liberal nomination.

Jonathan Goldbloom, 58, a veteran public relations professional and member of one of the city’s most distinguished Jewish and Liberal families, is busy lining up support, in competition with Côte St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, 44.

Among the first to declare their support for Goldbloom were his parents, former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Victor Goldbloom and retired social worker Sheila Goldbloom.

Jonathan may not be as well known as his brother Michael, former publisher of The Gazette and Toronto Star and now principal of Bishop’s University, but he’s counting on his many contacts and influential endorsers to bolster his chances against Housefather. He has contacts going back many years through his work at the provincial and federal levels. He ran Bob Rae’s campaign for the federal liberal leadship.

“I play hockey and tennis but my hobby really is politics,” he said with a smile. “I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in smoke-filled backrooms.

“I started in politics with my father, in 1976 and I used to travel across Quebec with him.”

Of the election of Philippe Couillard in Quebec City and Denis Coderre in Montreal, both Liberals, Goldbloom says: “We have a chance to turn the page and change the focus from separation and independence to how we build Quebec and a stronger Montreal.”

“I do not think our issues have been front and centre in Ottawa. We have a chance to rebuild the city and restore Montreal to some of its glory.”

Goldbloom criticizes the Harper government for its lack of consultation with stakeholders. “We need to go back to a style of government where governments are engaged.”

Goldbloom salutes Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s “courageous” support of free choice on abortion, legalizing marijuana, and severing ties with Liberal senators.

“He’s bringing a new generation of people into politics, and that’s exciting. It’s at an appropriate time in my career and I think I can bring something to the table.”

Housefather has a strong head start, based on his 20 years as a politician in Hampstead and Côte St. Luc as a former president of the former English-language lobby group Alliance Quebec and a former vice-president of the federal Liberal Party. He has a long list of endorsers who have roots in the riding and has recruited more than 1,500 people who have applied for membership in the riding association. No date has been set for a nomination meeting.

The flurry of activity was sparked by the announced retirement of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, the McGill law professor and world-renowned human rights advocate, whose
popularity extends beyond his party’s brand.

Meanwhile, having increased their vote substantially in this once safe Liberal seat, the Conservatives are hopeful they can win this riding, which has a significant number of Jewish voters – but no one has formally announced an intention to run. Conservative activist Richard Yufe of Hampstead is among those considering it. (See page 9 for a profile of this up-and-coming politician.)

Goldbloom, who was part of a recent Jewish mega-mission to Israel, believes that Israel will not be a wedge issue in the next election as it was for some voters in Mount Royal during the 2011 election.

“The Liberal party is as supportive of Israel as Mr. Harper is. My challenge is to remind people that this is an election in Canada,” Goldbloom says. “I believe the majority in Mount Royal doesn’t like Harper’s policies on crime, his approach to government, his style, his position on climate change and lack of movement on the environment.”

Goldbloom was raised and still lives in Westmount, attended Selwyn House School, and earned his first degree from Harvard University, studying modern European history and literature. His undergraduate thesis was on attitudes of French Canadians toward the Second World War as reflected in history and literature.

“It was a significant episode that shows the challenge of keeping the country united,” he said.

After a brief stint with the federal Liberals in Ottawa, which ended with the government’s defeat in 1979, Goldbloom went back to school to earn an MBA from Western University in London, Ontario. He worked as executive assistant to the head of the Canada Post during its transformation into a crown corporation in the early 1980s.

When the Conservatives came to power in 1984, Goldbloom lost that job and switched to the private sector, working for Provigo, before opening his own public relations shop in Montreal in 1990. That firm is called JGA Strategic Communications.

Goldbloom is married to Alice Switocz, whom he met while she was executive assistant to former Liberal cabinet minister Don Johnston. They have two children, Alexandra, 21, and Matthew, 19. Both study at Bishop’s.

Johnston has endorsed Goldbloom, crediting him with managing two of his campaigns for the Liberal Party presidency. Former senators Leo Kolber and Yoine Goldstein have expressed support for Goldbloom, prompting speculation that the Liberal establishment would prefer Goldbloom because of his long-standing and deep ties to it. Housefather counters that his long-list of prominent supporters actually live in and hold prominent elected positions in the riding and are eligible to cast ballots at an open nomination meeting.

Goldstein has high praise for Goldbloom: “His knowledge and grasp of the Canadian polity is beyond anyone else’s. I don’t think there is anybody, anywhere, that comes close to his knowledge, his acumen, his ability to dissect and solve problems. He is an excellent communicator. Irwin Cotler is irreplaceable, but if there is one that is close, it’s Jonathan Goldbloom.”

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association of Canadian Studies, says: “Goldbloom is a brilliant individual, with a very keen analytical capacity, is excellent at networking, and has a lot of experience in the national capital.”

Maria Peluso, Concordia University and Dawson College political science teacher, says: “Jonathan has been active in leadership campaigns and conventions. He understands the party. He is ministerial material, someone who is able to formulate policy.”

The Mount Royal riding includes Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, Town of Mount Royal and Snowdon west of Victoria. About 35% of its residents are Jewish by religion or ethnic origin.

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