Gila Martow doesn’t toe the PC line in Thornhill debate

By Sabrina Nanji December 18, 2020

PC MPP Gila Martow pulled no punches when evaluating her own government’s pandemic response during a town-hall event featuring the candidates for the federal Conservative nomination in Thornhill.

Martow faced off against rival contender and veteran Ford strategist Melissa Lantsman at the virtual event, which was put on by the Jewish community Wednesday evening.

Asked to weigh in on how the province is handling Covid, Martow echoed many business advocates and said there isn’t enough data to back up the shutdowns. As a member of caucus who may be more privy to government information, Martow said she has had to ask the powers-that-be for more data. She also said she pushed for a “better” iron ring to protect long-term care early on, such as limits on staff movement.

“Ontario did so well because the Ontario residents really made an effort to understand what the government was trying to do and to cooperate, and now here we are eight months into the pandemic and the government is obviously concerned about the physical health of everybody. For the last couple of months, there’s been a lot of talk and concern about the mental health, the emotional health of the citizens of Ontario, and that should be taken into account when we discuss any measures,” Martow said.

Martow has found herself on the outs with the provincial PCs following her jump into the federal arena.

As first reported by Queen’s Park Today, Martow was told to give up her provincial nomination and that she would not be able to come back to run for the party if she failed to secure her federal candidacy. She was also stripped of her parliamentary assistant role shortly after throwing her hat in the federal ring in November.

Since then, the MPP hasn’t been shy about breaking rank.

She railed against lockdowns in York Region that kicked in this week, calling out the PCs for allowing big-box stores to sell non-essential items while small retailers are forced to shut their doors, and taking aim at Lantsman, who is a registered lobbyist for Walmart.

“Big-box retailers like Walmart should not be permitted to enrich themselves on the backs of small businesses simply because they can afford to hire well-connected lobbyists like Melissa Lantsman to get them preferential treatment,” Martow said in a recent statement.

The MPP also talked anti-lockdown in an interview with The Rebel.

For her part, Lantsman mostly steered clear of provincial issues at Wednesday’s town hall, sticking to federal matters and those impacting the Jewish community. That said, Lantsman did offer her thoughts on when proof-of-Covid-vaccination should be mandatory — to access long-term care homes — and also called for more data to justify retail shutdowns.

The race has split Ontario’s PC caucus as both contenders rack up endorsements. Lantsman is backed by cabinet heavyweights such as Stephen Lecce, Caroline Mulroney and Greg Rickford, while Jeff Yurek, Laurie Scott, and Steve Clark are on Team Martow.

At the debate, Martow vaguely referred to Lecce during a response about rising to the challenge of a cabinet portfolio, saying some people might think it “odd” to have an education minister with no kids, but that’s what being in cabinet is all about.

The Thornhill seat was put into play last month when longtime MP Peter Kent announced he won’t seek re-election. There’s no timeline for the contest to replace him yet, but sources expect it to take place early next year.

The PC Party and Premier’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.