Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer at pre-election debate, October 10th 2019
Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer at pre-election debate, October 10th 2019REUTERS

The Conservative party chairman who aims to unseat Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in next week’s federal election has voiced support for a number of pro-Israel positions relating to the status of Jerusalem and the Iranian military ahead of what appears to be a very close election.

Canadians will head to the polls next Monday for a federal election which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Shmini Atzeret.

Recent polling shows that incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who heads the Liberal Party, is vulnerable, with a virtual dead heat between the Liberals and the Conservatives, headed by 40-year-old Andrew Scheer.

Popular support for Trudeau, who easily unseated Conservative Premier Stephen Harper in 2015 by a 39.5% - 31.9% margin, has declined, while a recent blackface scandal has left some Liberals unsure if they’ll turnout for the premier, said CTV News pollster Nik Nanos.

A string of recent polls shows neither side with a significant lead.

An October 16th poll by Forum Research found the Liberals with a one-point lead, 30-29, over the Conservatives, while a Nanos Research completed the same day found the Conservatives besting the Liberals 32.5 – 31.5.

“We’re finding a dead heat between the Liberals and the Conservatives,” Nanos told CTV News, adding that Canada would likely find itself with a minority government.

“If an election were held today, we’re realistically looking at some sort of a minority government.”

If the Conservatives manage to win by a larger margin than polls currently suggest, Scheer, a traditional, socially conservative Catholic will likely form the next government, blocking an alliance of the Liberals and the smaller NDP party from giving Trudeau a second term.

Along with both fiscal and social conservative positions, Scheer has also challenged the Trudeau government on foreign policy, including the Liberal administration’s opposition to the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and the recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

In a bid to win greater backing from Canada’s Jewish community, Scheer signed a Conservative Party pledge last February vowing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

"Canada's Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital when we form government in 2019," the pledge says.

“Canada’s Conservatives have been, and always will be, a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community.

"Israel is one of Canada’s strongest allies and a beacon of pluralism and democratic principles in a turbulent part of the world.

"Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located.”

The pledge does not, however, explicitly promise the relocation of the Canadian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Ahead of the relocation of the US embassy last year, Trudeau vowed to keep the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv, and criticized the Trump administration for its decision to relocate the US embassy.

“I have always been very clear: our embassy will stay in Tel Aviv,” Trudeau told The Canadian Press last January “We do not believe that actions like this (Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the embassy there) are useful.”

The Canadian government also refused to send delegates to participate in the unveiling of the US embassy in Jerusalem, and abstained from a United Nations General Assembly resolution against the move.

In a May 7th foreign policy speech in Montreal, Scheer attacked the Trudeau government’s policy vis-à-vis Israel more generally, vowing to “renew Canada’s support for Israel and its inherent right to defend itself”.

“Terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have absolutely no interest in peace. Since their inception, the leaders of Hamas have been trying to destroy Israel. When Israel gives them the concrete they need to build schools, Hamas builds tunnels instead, to kill civilians.”