The Jerusalem Post

Melissa Lantsman: Canada's Conservative, Zionist, Jewish MP

 Lantsman in the House of Commons (Bernard Thibodeau/House of Commons Photo Services) (photo credit: HOC-CDC)
Lantsman in the House of Commons (Bernard Thibodeau/House of Commons Photo Services)
(photo credit: HOC-CDC)

Melissa Lantsman, the daughter of parents who immigrated from Ukraine in the 1970s, says she learned from them the value of building from bootstraps, and being a strong Zionist.

By the time Melissa Lantsman became federal member of parliament for the Toronto suburb of Thornhill in 2021, she had already made a name for herself as a television and radio pundit. Formerly one of Canada’s leading public affairs executives, Lantsman had also spent the majority of her adult life involved in the political sphere. 

Thornhill has the largest concentration of Canada’s Jewish population, amounting to 35,000 of the country’s 400,000 Jews. 

Just a year after her election, she rose to the rank as one of two deputy leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada (the official opposition) under Pierre Poilievre. If the Conservatives win the next election, a Jewish woman will be second (or third) in line to the top job.

Lantsman, the daughter of parents who immigrated from Ukraine in the 1970s, says she learned from them the value of building from bootstraps, and being a strong Zionist.


Among the many political positions she’s held are director of communications to prime minister Stephen Harper in 2011-2012; and in 2018, chief spokeswoman for the election campaign of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. 

 Melissa Lantsman delivering a keynote address at a Jewish-Azerbaijani Heritage event, November 2022. (Network of Azerbaijani Canadians) (credit: Courtesy)
Melissa Lantsman delivering a keynote address at a Jewish-Azerbaijani Heritage event, November 2022. (Network of Azerbaijani Canadians) (credit: Courtesy)

The Jerusalem Report spoke to the 39-year-old politician in a wide-ranging interview.

How did you first find a home in conservatism? 

I volunteered rather young. My first volunteer campaign was a provincial campaign in our area for Tina Molinari in 1999. I was given pamphlets. My parents encouraged me to do volunteer work in the community, and I didn’t have the stomach to do the old age home, like most of my friends did. I shudder at the sight of blood or sick people. I was never going to be a successful doctor, like they wanted. But I chose this based on what I had read. As a young informed voter, I just found a home in it the way other people find a home with like-minded people. Like every other engagement that you have, you meet your people. I found that the conservatives spoke to everyone the same way. If you work hard, no matter where you come from, it’s about what you achieve and what you do for this country. 

How did your being in the inner circle affect the way you see politics? 

There are so many times as a staffer in politics where you can give the best advice. You can give the best arguments about why you should do something, and at the end of the day the decision doesn’t always go your way. Your name is not on the ballot. You are not the final decision-maker. I saw, at times, things – even in the government I worked for – where behind closed doors, I didn’t like the decisions that were being made. So, I thought the best way to change those decisions was to put my name on a ballot and be in that room. 

Was there a particular sore spot you wish you’d been able to change? 

No, because it’s cabinet confidence. I’ll respect that. I was lucky enough to be in some of the senior decision-making rooms. Once the decision is made, that’s the decision of the government. It’s not always a pretty path to get there. But, I will tell you, I didn’t always agree with everything. I think it is fair to say that nobody in any political party agrees with 100% of the decision-making. What you can say is, ‘You can always have your say, you just can’t always have your way.’ 


None of these things, conversations on policy making, are as easy as black and white. There is a lot of nuances in politics. Oftentimes, politicians don’t get that right. 

Is it fair to say that the Liberals and Conservatives could find compromise in the past, but not so today? 

I think that’s exactly it. Compromise is not the word I’d use. Constructively collaborate. I think they are continually pulled to the most Left of their fringe. I suspect most reasonable, middle of the road, Liberals are people who would have voted for [prime minister] Stephen Harper in his last election and who maybe switched their votes to [Justin]Trudeau in 2015. I think they feel less and less like they have a home in the Liberal Party. Balanced budgets, reasonable social welfare for those who needed it most, low taxes, rewarding hard work – that was the former iteration of the Liberal Party that is far gone.

Many times in the media, they add descriptors to you: gay, a woman, Jewish. What do you think when you see this?

I think it is lazy, frankly. If you were to ask me, I’d tell you that I check a lot of boxes. I’m young, successful, I was a female executive. I’m a Zionist. I’m the child of immigrants. I’m educated. I’m trilingual. I’m happy to take on Justin Trudeau any day of the week. Those are descriptors I think they could use. 

I think it’s done purposely – not always with malice, but sometimes with callous. To give the reader an impression, ‘I stand on a certain side of an issue because I am this.’ I’ll always stand on the side of freedom, human rights, democracy, and rule of law. Those are other descriptors you could use. Some in the media think that putting a descriptor of the religion I follow will give the reader a shortcut to how I feel about a particular topic. 

Your Jewish upbringing and involvement – what do they mean to you? 

I was involved in Jewish life from the time I was a teenager, then took it into university as the leader of many organizations on campus and nationally. I was president of the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students, which represented Jewish students; we wanted to celebrate on campus, advocate on campus for Israel, and bring Jews from across the country together to learn and celebrate their shared values. In nearly all of the major Jewish organizations in Canada, I was a board member, adviser, or volunteer.

From a strong Jewish upbringing, to a strong Jewish community involvement in all kinds of different organizations, it is very hard separate myself from the way I was brought up. Until today, I’m someone who studies every morning with a rabbi to make sure that, despite all the distractions of politics, I know where I come from, and it helps me with where I’m going to go. 

What do Conservatives stand for with regard to Israel, versus Liberals?

Now, more and more, you are seeing a Liberal Party supportive only when things are easy – when it comes to celebrating Jewish or national holidays or happy moments in the community. But when things get difficult, when Hamas fires rockets on innocent civilians, when there are clashes on the Temple Mount, I think you have fewer and fewer friends showing up. They’ve made the political calculation that standing on the side of our friend and ally is something that isn’t a political winner anymore. 

The Liberals claim to support the definition of antisemitism, and then immediately accepted someone like Jenica Atwin into their party, after she egregiously violated the very definition, with antisemitic comments, calling Israel an apartheid state. No wonder antisemitism is on the rise. When you call Zionism – the Jewish right to self-determination – a movement based on apartheid, racism, or genocide, what you are actually doing is giving justification to violent antisemites. 

With some of our Liberal MPs, having a government in Israel that they don’t agree with politically gives them license to engage further on the wrong side of this issue. I’ll remind you that there are governments all over the world that Canada has strong diplomatic relations with, that we don’t agree with. Those relationships are frank, friendly, and forward-looking. The current government of Israel doesn’t have that same relationship with the government in Canada. I find that quite troubling. Governments will change, but Israel will always remain a friend to Canada – a friend committed to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law – particularly when many of its neighbors are not. 

This is what we’ve seen of late on UNRWA – the UN relief agency. I was part of the Harper administration when we ended funding to that so that Canadian tax dollars wouldn’t fund the murder of Jewish children in Israel. You saw that Liberals, shamefully, restarted that practice. There was no oversight in how this money was being used to incite violence and terror. In fact, during that last round of fighting between Hamas and Israel, tunnels were found underneath UNRWA schools – paid for in part by Canadian tax dollars. You have to ask questions about a true commitment to a friend if you are funding something that is there to destroy your friend. 

Liberals are choosing popularity over principle. Just because something is popular doesn’t make it right. 

What would be a pet policy of Melissa Lantsman?

Many. On the international side, we want to go back to being a country that commands respect on the world stage. And to take a stronger stance against terrorism; it poses a serious threat not only in the Middle East but in our own country as well. We need to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp as terrorist – something the Liberals had agreed with. 

On the domestic side, there is no shortage of problems. We have generations of people who have come here – or who are landing on our shores – who are promised the Canadian dream and are just not getting it. We had a deal in this country: If you worked hard, went to school, and obeyed the law, you could get a good house in a safe neighborhood and raise your kids the way you wanted to, and ensure that they could have a better future. That deal has been broken. We have skyrocketing housing prices. The price of rent has doubled in eight years. Our inflation is out of control. We are so focused on redistribution of the pie rather than increasing the pie. Let’s have more Canadians keep more of their money. These are all big things. ■