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Joe Oliver

Joyce Bateman, Joe Oliver, and Aidan Fishman

Chai dancers with Minister Leitch

Josh Muyal and Minister Leitch

Interview with Canada's First Jewish Finance Minister Joe Oliver at Folklorama's Israel Pavilion

Canada's Labour Minister Kelly Leitch also present

by Rhonda Spivak, September 21, 2014









Joe Oliver, Canada's finance Minister was interviewed by the Winnipeg Jewish Review at Folklorama's Shalom Square Israel Pavilion, which Oliver attended with MP for Winnipeg South Centre Joyce Bateman.







Oliver, age 74, who was born and raised in Montreal is Canada's first Jewish finance minister and represents the Toronto riding of Eglington-Lawrence.







On the subject of Israel, Oliver said, "Stephen Harper is pursuing a policy in the current Israel-Hamas conflict which best reflects Canadian values and interests in the short and long term. In the battle between Israel a democratic ally and Hamas, a terrorist organization that wants to destroy it, he [Harper] rejects, as I do, the moral equivalence, the inversion of the perpetrator into the victim and the victim into the perpetrator. He understands that what's at stake here is the survival of Israel as an independent state."






Oliver continued, "Hamas has made it clear that it doesn't want to see the Jewish state continue to exist. In pursuit of this objective they are willing to sacrifice the lives of their own people. They are the greatest enemy of their own people. After all, Israel left Gaza in its entirety and in response, rather than build up their economy, resources were used for terror and the build-up of tunnels at great expense and for tens of thousands of rockets which arrived at Israeli territory."





"Hamas uses its own people as human shields" and shoots rockets from "near mosques, schools, UN installations," purposely exposing its own people to danger.  Israel must respond, as there is no other way to defend itself to stop rockets raining down."








In terms of Canada's role on the world stage, Oliver said that, "Given the cacophony of hostility, and silence of the rest of the world, Prime Minister Harper's support of Israel ' is extra-ordinary'. There ought to be others [like him]."







Harper's support of Israel is important, according to Oliver, because any dilution of support for Israel, "won't encourage peace, but will encourage a terror organization to keep doing what it's been doing."





Harper's support of Israel "is important as a counterpoint" to the tendency of others in the world to be silent, said Oliver, who was born and raised in Montreal to a dentist father and teacher mother.






Oliver has visited Israel six times, including three trips as natural resources minister. His latest trip was this past January when he accompanied Harper on the latter’s first visit to the Jewish state, at which time Oliver took part in meetings and roundtable discussions with Israeli business leaders on bilateral issues involving technology and innovation.






Oliver, who earned arts and civil law degrees at McGill University and then an MBA at the Harvard Graduate School of Business, dismissed any notion that Harper's support for Israel has anything to do with pandering to the Jewish vote. "The Jewish community is 1% of Canada," Oliver noted. "I am encouraged because there are a lot of people outside of the Jewish community who understand Canada's stance "vis-a-vis Israel."





Turning to the economy, Minister Oliver said, "Canada has emerged from the great recession of 2008-2009 in stronger shape relatively than other developed countries."






Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G-7 over this year and next, according to Oliver.






 He added that, "We've created more jobs than any major industrialized country per capita. Our debt is one half that of the average G7 country. We're looking forward to a budgetary surplus next year, and we are going to use that in part to reduce taxes for hardworking families."






Oliver had a 40-year career in the financial sector as an investment banker with Merrill Lynch, executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission, and as CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada. He noted that "The Canadian middle class is the wealthiest in the world."






Oliver also  pointed out that in 2013, Canada moved from sixth to second place in Bloomberg’s ranking of the most attractive destinations for business, and for the sixth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada’s banking system as the world’s soundest.






 "We have a highly educated country that has been attracting capital from all over the world," Oliver said, also adding that "We need to be fiscally responsible to maintain our strength.”






Three credit rating agencies—Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s—have reaffirmed their top ratings for Canada.






"We can continue to increase transfers to the provinces and social programs to individuals," Oliver noted.





In addition to Oliver, the Winnipeg Jewish Review also saw Kelly Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister for the Status of Women at Folklorama's Israel Pavilion. She too said she is proud of Canada's standing with Israel. "We are no longer the country that goes to get along."





Leitch who is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who trained under her "mentor Dr. Alan Gross in Toronto", said she has been to Israel a number of times, the last being in 2009.






Leitch said that Prime Minister Harper has been vocal in support of Israel's right to defend itself"  in this latest war with Hamas and that it is important "that a G7 leader supports this position," on the international stage.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.