Melissa Lantsman: Challenging Conventions In The Conservative Party
Having grown up in Thornhill, just a few minutes from where her community office is today, Melissa Lantsman is a natural advocate for the community she grew up in, fighting for the next generation by tackling antisemitism and addressing the nation’s high cost of living.
Ever since she can remember, Melissa Lantsman has always been tuned into current affairs and world history. Her interest in politics began when she volunteered on a campaign in high school. Th is interest soon became a hobby, which grew into passion for change. As the first LGBTQ woman and Jewish woman ever to be elected as a Conservative MP, she is already making a positive impact in Canadian politics. We sat down with the MP to learn more about the change she hopes to continue to make in Thornhill and her mission to keep the Canadian dream alive…
Q: Where did you grow up, and what was your upbringing like?
A: My parents immigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union via Israel and Belgium in the ’70s and moved to Thornhill in the early ’80s. They worked hard so we could have a better life than the one they left behind. I went to a French immersion school in the neighbourhood, I went to camp, I played baseball, basketball and did gymnastics. I got part-time jobs early on and volunteered where I could. We had family dinners almost every night, celebrated every milestone and travelled. My parents gave me every opportunity to succeed and pushed me when they knew I could do better.
Q: What did you learn from being the communications advisor to several cabinet members in the 28th Canadian Ministry of Prime Minister Stephen Harper?
A: I learned to work under pressure, solve problems quickly, get buy-in, set goals and, more importantly, boundaries, and finally, I learned that I always have a lot more to learn from others who have experience. I learned what leadership, tough decisions and integrity looked like when the stakes are high in the best country in the world.
Q: You are the first LGBTQ and Jewish woman ever to be elected as a Conservative MP. How does that make you feel?
A: I’m a woman, I’m Jewish, I’m a young and successful executive, I’m a child of immigrants, and I am many other things that are part of my identity. I’m also openly gay. It gives me a unique understanding and compassion for the things that I am and reminds me to try and understand the things that I am not in order to serve everyone. I hope people see that there is room for everyone in the Conservative Party and, more importantly, room for anyone who wants to get into politics to get into politics. Doesn’t matter where you’re from, what colour you are, who you love or whether you pray on Saturday or Sunday or not at all — I’m proud to have the support of a community that values all that, too.
Q: You were elected to Parliament on September 20, 2021, and you were sworn into office on October 28. Can you tell me about that day and why was it so special to you?
A: I had a swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa dampened by ongoing COVID restrictions. I had my family and close friends there for the day. We had a small ceremony and a small dinner to celebrate. It was the single most memorable day of my professional life shared with the people I love who supported my journey for many years leading up to that moment. It was almost a year to the day of when my mother passed away, and if I could change anything at all, I wished she was there to see the culmination of her work in the moment I was sworn in as the Member of Parliament for the community she and my father chose to make home.
Q: Can you share your take on the Canadian dream and how has it changed since your parents immigrated to Canada? How is that dream in jeopardy? What are some of the biggest consequences that make the Canadian dream less realistic?
A: Like many millions of others who came here, my parents worked hard, saved their money, and contributed to their communities. They shared in the uniquely Canadian ideal that their children would be able to inherit a life greater and more prosperous than the one they led, in some cases than the one they fled.
That dream is in jeopardy. It’s not an overnight phenomenon. It’s a consistent erosion of a way of life. And it is most certainly not just a product of a global phenomenon. It’s unique to us in many ways.
A recent survey stated that 30% of young Canadian immigrants are likely to leave this country. The reason? Three-quarters of them said that the rising cost of living is pushing them away to other, more affordable places.
“Doesn’t matter where you’re from, what colour you are, who you love or whether you pray on Saturday or Sunday or not at all — I’m proud to have the support of a community that values all that, too”
For the first time in our history, parents really aren’t sure if their children will have better lives than they have now. That’s a shocking departure from the last 100 years.
Q: What do you love about the Thornhill community?
A: Thornhill is a community where people work hard to get ahead but look out for one another when times are tough. It’s safe, it’s diverse, it is home to many centres of excellence, faith communities and local businesses that punch above their weight.
Q: What do you love about what you do?
A: Everything. When I don’t love it anymore, it’s time to leave.
Q: What would be your greatest advice for individuals who would like to get into politics?
A: Try it out, get engaged and never forget the reason why you started, no matter how far you get. Books don’t do justice to the actual work of politics — you have to do it to understand it.
Q: What are the biggest rewards and downsides of being a Member of Parliament for Thornhill?
A: The biggest reward is seeing your work reflect the values of the community that entrusted you, seeing families get ahead, standing up for what’s principled instead of repeating what’s popular, seeing young people succeed through your advocacy and honouring the seniors who came before us by looking out for them. The downside is finding balance in your life with the time away from your family, in Ottawa, and knowing that standing up sometimes means standing alone.
Q: What would you like your community to know?
A: We are here to help. I’m one of the most accessible MPs — that’s my continued promise. [email protected]
Q: How would you describe yourself using three words?
A: Focused. Decisive. Unafraid.
Q: What qualities are important to have if you are a politician?
A: A principled leader who has the courage to make tough decisions, be empathetic and speak for the people who chose them for the job.
Q: What are some of your favourite local businesses in Thornhill?
A: Golden Star, Centre Street Deli, Ba- Li Laffa and My Zaidy’s for food, but it’s hard to choose just a few. We have some of the country’s most innovative companies, successful social enterprises and best-run family businesses that have made Thornhill home.
Q: What are some of your favourite hobbies?
A: Concerts and baseball. Current events and books. I was lucky enough to turn my hobby of politics into a passion and then into a profession.