Prior to October 7, I knew independent Toronto MP Kevin Vuong as a scumbag. In the months since, Vuong has tried to rebrand himself, and his effort has been partly successful: I now know him as a Zionist scumbag. These are harsh words that some may balk at, but I think even worse descriptors are fair. 

To explain why, I’ll take you through how Vuong became an MP, a series of events that may be mentioned in civics courses well after he has otherwise been forgotten. This process includes what I consider to be the most shameful choice a Canadian politician has made in an election in my lifetime. It has only gotten worse since then, as I believe Vuong has used the genocide in Gaza as an opportunity to reshape his image in service of his political survival. 

This is a theory, but it’s supported by a close look at Vuong’s record and how the political climate in Canada has developed. I asked Vuong what he thought about the theory, but he didn’t reply.  

Vuong is just one of many Canadian politicians whose behaviour over the past few months warrants ridicule and condemnation, but given how unique his political career is, I think it’s worth spending some extra time on him. Also, whether he continues as an MP or not beyond the next election will say a great deal about the state of politics in Canada and the influence the Israel lobby has on it.

To understand why, we have to start before the most recent election.

A ‘Compromised’ Victory

In August 2021, Spadina—Fort York Liberal MP Adam Vaughan announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election. This left the Liberals in need of a new candidate for the election they’d call a week later. They chose Vuong. 

Vuong’s electoral political experience was limited to a failed 2018 Toronto City Council run, but he had what was presumably an impressive resume for the Liberals, including a top 30 under 30 award, being appointed Canada’s NATO 2030 young leader and time in the Navy as an intelligence officer. 

It was ultimately what the party didn’t know about Vuong, however, that would be most important.

The Liberal Party has rules about candidate selection, including that the candidate must “have not engaged in any claim, litigation or dispute of any sort which is liable to bring controversy or disrepute upon the qualified nomination contestant or the party.” Vuong was connected with two separate legal matters, and accused of not informing the Liberals of one.

The first was that Vuong was facing a lawsuit over his pandemic mask company, from a person who alleged they were wrongfully cut out of the business. Vuong denied the allegation, and the Liberals said they were aware of the lawsuit prior to choosing him.

The second, reported by the Toronto Star just four days before the election, was that Vuong was charged with sexual assault in 2019 — a charge he denied and that was withdrawn later the same year. Vuong has put forward the withdrawal as proof the charge had no merit, claiming “the Crown didn’t even see fit to take it to court.” The Star reported the complainant told the Crown she didn’t have the energy to go through the proceedings “as she had already been through the trauma of going through a criminal case after she was sexually assaulted as a child.” The Star reported that the Crown prosecutor met with the woman and that she had some ongoing “personal issues.” The prosecutor said “it would not be in the public interest to proceed any further.”

The Star described the alleged incident with Vuong as follows: “The complainant said she went on several dates with Vuong after they met on a dating app in early 2019. On April 8, 2019, she said, Vuong came over to her home and the two watched a movie, went to bed and fell asleep. Not long after, she said she was woken up by Vuong touching her. ‘At first he’s touching my breasts and then he’s trying to slobber all over my neck, and then his hands go lower,’ she said. She said she was confused for a few seconds and then told Vuong she had to go to the bathroom, where she said she locked the door and contacted a friend. The friend came to the apartment, told Vuong to leave and he left without confrontation, said the complainant, who also provided screenshots of text messages with the friend from that night. The friend corroborated her recollection of that night’s events.”

The Liberal Party told the Star it wasn’t aware of the charge against Vuong, and called on him to immediately pause his campaign. A couple days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the party had investigated the matter and “come to the conclusion that this individual can no longer be a Liberal candidate in this election.” 

However, given that this was just two days before the election, it was too late for Vuong’s name to be taken off the ballot. As such, Vuong appeared as a Liberal on election day, meaning people may have voted for him not knowing what had happened or that if he won he wouldn’t be sitting in Parliament as a Liberal. This is particularly relevant in Spadina—Fort York given that all prior elections in the riding’s history saw Liberals win with more than 50 per cent of the vote. It is a riding where in normal circumstances, party matters far more than person.

The 2021 election, however, wasn’t a normal circumstance for this riding, and the vote was closer than it may have otherwise been: Vuong won with 38.9 per cent of the votes compared to the NDP candidate’s 34.5 per cent — a difference of just 2,157 votes. 

The Canadian Press called the riding for Vuong two days after the election because of how close it was — it ultimately was decided by “thousands” of mail votes and advance ballots that needed to be counted. This means there could have been enough advance voters who opted for Vuong before he was booted by the Liberals to have been the deciding factor in the riding. Some of those voters said they felt scammed.

Unsurprisingly, condemnation of Vuong and calls for him to resign came quickly, including from the Spadina-Fort York Federal Liberal Association, Toronto Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy, and then-Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca. More than 5,200 people also signed a petition calling for him to resign.

Screenshots of comments left on a petition calling for Vuong to resign

Vaughan, Vuong’s predecessor, said he told him, “It’s a compromised seat, it is a compromised victory and people are going to be furious if you assume the seat,” before urging him to resign. Vaughan told The Canadian Press that if Vuong did not resign, he “would not brief his successor on certain sensitive cases and would instead ask ministers or neighbouring MPs to take them forward.”

Vuong decided to push ahead anyway, presumably because it was too late for almost anyone to legally do anything about it. This was his chance to get access to political power, and he apparently wasn’t going to let anything — including ethics and morality — stop him. 

Vuong put out a brief statement saying he would “work hard to earn [voters’] trust,” deleted it, ignored media requests for weeks until accepting one from a friendly radio host (where he said he was sorry for not disclosing the sexual assault charge, but that he wouldn’t be stepping down), and then looked forward.

The Rebrand

Now in Parliament with many not wanting him there, Vuong began to search for a way to reinvent himself.

The first time I can remember seeing Vuong’s name pop back up after the election scandal died down was in May 2023, at the height of the “Chinese interference” hysteria spreading across the country. He told a radio host that he was the victim of a supposed Chinese plot, alleging that the woman who said he sexually assaulted her was an operative who lured him into a “honey trap,” a term referring to sexual entrapment for blackmail. Vuong offered no proof for his claim, and it’s unclear why the Chinese government would try to set up a political nobody in 2019 who only became a Liberal Party candidate two years later. 

Regardless, the convenience of the story for Vuong is clear: he got to insert himself into a trending national story (his claim was covered by many major outlets), make himself out to be a victim in the withdrawn sexual assault charge ordeal and appeal to anti-China voters. 

A few months later, Vuong shapeshifted once again: this time into a Zionist food blogger.

For the first couple of months after October 7, a new scandal would break seemingly every few days alleging that pro-Palestine protesters were antisemitic for supposedly targeting one ‘Jewish business’ or another. Vuong popped up on social media shortly after many of these incidents frequenting the business.

Screenshots of tweets from Vuong.

While Vuong’s patronage of small, family-owned businesses, such as Indigo and Starbucks, may not have saved them from PR hits, his stunts also didn’t start off as being nefarious to many. His intent quickly became clear to me and some others though, with every piece of Israeli-appropriated shakshuka shoved down his throat serving as an attempted validation of the baseless smears against pro-Palestine protests. It’s only gotten worse since then, with Vuong defending some of Israel’s worst acts. 

For example, Vuong claims to be in favour of a ceasefire. However, in October Vuong said that a ceasefire “would only permit Hamas to rearm and perpetuate the cycle of violence.” In December, Vuong said that Canada’s vote in favour of a ceasefire at the United Nations “betrayed Canada’s values” and was “an endorsement of Hamas’ actions & atrocities.” In March, Vuong voted against the NDP’s ceasefire motion.   

Of Israel’s targeting of Al-Shifa hospital in November, Vuong tweeted: “By militarizing hospitals, #Hamas removes the protections that medical establishments are entitled to under intl humanitarian law. Hamas is responsible for making hospitals a target. They must cease using hospitals as #humanshields so that protections under IHL can be restored.” (A mass grave was recently found under the hospital containing the bodies of some of the more than 250 Palestinians killed by Israel there alone — and that was not the only mass grave found at a hospital in April either.)

One Twitter user brought up Israel’s killing of medical staff, aid workers and patients to Vuong, saying that they believed these acts violate the Geneva Convention. Vuong replied, “I don’t care what you believe. If you actually read the Geneva Conventions you cited, you would see how those protections are removed when they’re exploited.”

Israel has killed at least 15,000 Palestinian children since October, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. Vuong says he has a “huge issue” with this, but blames Palestinians, writing, “I’m not confused by who is responsible for endangering them and innocents: Hamas. It is Hamas who operates out of schools, hospitals, and mosques. It is Hamas who is using innocent children and civilians as human shields.”

Vuong has also supported cutting aid to UNRWA, quoting absurd and baseless theories about the life-saving organization, such as that “‘#Hamas is controlling #UNRWA’” and claiming that it has been deeply “infiltrated by #Hamas terrorists.” And in a genuinely nauseating tweet, Vuong claims he opposes UNRWA funding because “my lived experience gives me moral clarity.” 

In addition, Vuong has justified Israel’s bombing of the Iranian embassy in Syria — a nearly unprecedented act — by claiming it “was a hub for #IRGCterrorists masquerading as diplomats.” 

Vuong’s adherence to the political line pushed by the Israel lobby attracted their attention, and he appears to have been welcomed by the pro-Israel community in Toronto at large. 

For example, in a February post advertising a “fireside chat” with Vuong, HonestReporting Canada wrote that in recent weeks, Vuong “has become one of the country’s most vocal supporters, both of Israel, and of Canada’s Jewish community at large.”

Vuong has received multiple personal ‘thank yous’ from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), including a March press release commending his “principled stance” in voting ‘no’ to the NDP’s motion to end arms sales to Israel. 

B’nai Brith put out a press release in November focused exclusively on Vuong titled, “B’nai Brith Applauds Canadian MP For Condemning Pro-Hamas Rallies.” The organization’s CEO said, “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with [Vuong].”

Michael Levitt, the president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, has thanked Vuong personally on multiple occasions, including a November tweet where he wrote, “A big shout out to [Kevin Vuong] for his ongoing allyship and strong voice in support of the Jewish community.”

Vuong also appeared at several pro-Israel rallies (including as a speaker), such as one in March held by the Canadian Women Against Antisemitism where he sat behind the women as they discussed alleged sexual assault.  

In short, Vuong went from very rarely discussing Israel prior to October 7 (at least on his Twitter account, which has been active since 2011) to constantly spouting Zionist talking points and defending some of the state’s most-condemned actions, and has been praised by the Israel lobby for doing so. 

The Payoff

It’s possible that defending a state on trial for genocide at the International Court of Justice and attacking its critics at home is something that comes naturally to Vuong. He may be a true, if recent, believer, who thinks his actions are somehow helping Jewish people in Canada. It’s also possible Vuong did care about Israel prior to October 7, but has just focused on it more since then due to the importance of what’s happening, as many of us have done. There’s no real proof of this, though. With this in mind, I think something else is going on here. 

Given what I described above, I’m confident Vuong would have failed to be elected as an MP had he not been attached to the Liberal brand at all, or even for as long as he was. I also am confident the Liberals won’t take Vuong back, and that he will lose in 2025 if he runs in his riding as an independent. Despite this, Vuong has expressed a clear interest in remaining an elected official. Given these circumstances, there’s really only one option left for him: the Conservative Party of Canada. 

Over the past year or so, polling has indicated that the Conservatives will win the next election with an overwhelming majority. This is a good time to be a Conservative MP or to set yourself up to become one.

One possibility is that Vuong becomes the Conservative candidate for his current riding. However, the Conservatives would probably only select him if they were confident he could overcome the stigma attached to him by many of his constituents, which seems unlikely.     

Another possibility is that Vuong is selected as a Conservative candidate in a different riding, as there is precedent for elected officials successfully shifting from representing one area to another. (See Patrick Brown’s political career.) 

Vuong wouldn’t need to go far from his current riding for the transition to be possible. As of April 17, 338Canada listed four Toronto ridings as “likely” to go from Liberal to Conservative in the next election (Eglinton–Lawrence; Etobicoke Centre; Etobicoke–Lakeshore; York Centre) and two as “leaning” toward being a Conservative gain from the Liberals (Don Valley West; Willowdale), in addition to a “toss up” between the Conservatives and Liberals (Don Valley North). The Conservatives have a future in Liberal-dominated Toronto.

In February, Vuong admitted to wanting to join the Conservatives in an interview with True North, pointing to polls predicting Conservative victory and asking “who wouldn’t want the opportunity” to be part of the government. The interviewer asked if Vuong chatted with anyone in the Conservative Party about the matter. He replied, “I think the door has always been open from my side. I’ve chatted with people and they’re like, ‘Yeah, Kevin, I think you’d fit right into caucus.’ But, you know, it’s not just up to me.” Vuong went on to say he has always been a “team player” and hopes he will be given the opportunity to show he can “add value” to the Conservatives. 

And this is what it comes down to: It’s clear what Vuong would get from joining the Conservatives, but what would they get from him? 

First, Vuong is already voting like a Conservative. From October 7 to April 15, a stunning 92 per cent of Vuong’s 166 votes in Parliament were with the Conservatives, with the vast majority of these votes directly opposing the Liberals. From February 12 (less than two weeks before the True North interview) to April 15, Vuong voted with the Conservatives 100 per cent of the time. Vuong told True North that he had only been a “card-carrying Liberal” for a few weeks before the 2021 election, and that, “I think like the majority of Canadians, I’m pretty centrist.” Of course an independent MP wouldn’t vote with their previous party 100 per cent of the time, but if they genuinely held even close to the same political beliefs as they did when elected, you wouldn’t expect for them to do the exact opposite. Unless, that is, the person in question was potentially more interested in their own political ambitions than what the majority of their constituents wanted.

Still, voting with the Conservatives and attacking the Liberals and NDP online is probably not enough. So, what else can he offer them? This is where Vuong’s shift in my opinion from scumbag to scumbag Zionist that I’ve outlined becomes relevant.

A well-established political narrative in Canada is that some Jewish people are shifting their votes from the Liberals to the Conservatives due to what is seen as the former’s insufficient support for Israel. This was one of the topics explored in a CBC article from earlier this month which examined how “the conflict in the Middle East could be affecting the next federal election already.” The CBC spoke with Richard Robertson, B’nai Brith’s director of research and advocacy, who said he believes the way the Conservatives have handled the ongoing genocide will sway Jewish votes to their party.

The dwindling support for the Liberals among some parts of the Jewish community in Canada has also played out in Parliament itself, with Liberal MP Anthony Housefather having publicly contemplated leaving the party due to its vote on the arms-transfers-to-Israel motion, and Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman frequently attacking him for staying with the party as a Jewish person.

The Conservatives are interested in getting as many votes from Jewish people as possible, but that demographic holds more sway in some ridings than others, with Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre going as far as to refer to these ridings as “Jewish ridings.” So, which ridings are they? 

In 2019, Elections Canada published an estimation of the Jewish population by federal riding. Of the top 10 nationwide, three are ones in Toronto that have been identified as “likely” or “leaning” to go from Liberal to Conservative in the next election: Eglinton—Lawrence (second in Ontario); York Centre (third in Ontario); Don Valley West (fifth in Ontario). These ridings were also identified in 2019 by the Canadian Jewish News as “federal ridings where the Jewish vote may make a difference.”

Another indicator of the relative importance of Jewish voters in these ridings is how often their MPs have been lobbied by CIJA and gone on the Israel trips that the group used to organize. In terms of CIJA lobbying, all three of the MPs of the ridings identified above also appeared in the top 10 of times lobbied, in the same order. Two of these MPs have also taken CIJA’s sponsored trips.

Here Are The 10 MPs Most Lobbied By CIJA
Nearly 60 per cent of current MPs have been lobbied by CIJA, but these 10, from all three major parties, stand out.
CIJA Has Taken Nearly 25% Of MPs On Paid Trips To ‘Israel’
MPs from four major parties have gone on these trips with the Zionist organization, receiving average benefits worth more than $12,000.

With all of this in mind, it appears that Vuong is attempting to make himself an attractive candidate for the Conservatives by appealing to parts of a demographic that will be key to Toronto ridings the party has a real chance of winning.      

Vuong has addressed a crass version of this theory before, which argued that he is “sucking up for the Jewish vote.” He replied, “Read the census & educate yourself. If I was doing that, I’d be cowarding in silence like so many GTA MPs.” It’s true that Vuong’s current riding is just 2.1 per cent Jewish (and, of course, not all Jewish people support Israel or would determine their vote based on government policy on Israel). But as Vuong’s actions seem to indicate, I don’t think he has his current constituents in mind: it seems like he’s thinking about who he hopes his next ones will be. 

You may wonder why, if this was the case, the Conservatives wouldn’t have just taken Vuong already. It’s not clear if the Conservatives have bought what Vuong is selling them. They may determine he’s not worth the negative association he still has for many.  Moreover, at this point there’s no benefit for the Conservatives to take on Vuong, as they’re getting someone who votes exactly like a Conservative without the baggage he brings. But he may be useful in the next election. If Vuong joins as a Conservative candidate, the Conservatives could argue that he would be running a clean campaign, with voters being aware of his history and able to come to their own conclusions. 

With this in mind, I think we won’t see Vuong be allowed to join the party until and unless he’s announced as a Conservative candidate for the next federal election.

I want to reiterate what is fact and what is speculation. We know Vuong wants to join the Conservatives and is voting like one, that Jewish voters as a whole may be shifting toward the Conservatives, and that Vuong has actively courted pro-Israel elements of the Jewish community and been acknowledged by prominent groups for doing so. The speculation on my part is that Vuong has primarily gone after this demographic in an attempt to continue his political career (not that supporting Israel would violate some sense of morality he has, though). He denies this, but I think there’s good reason to believe it’s true.

First, Vuong’s denial doesn’t mean much to me because he was booted by the Liberals for lying to them by saying he had never been criminally charged. He could be lying again. 

We know Vuong has succumbed to craven political opportunism given that he refused to step down after his compromised election victory. It’s possible this wasn’t a one-time thing.

We know that Vuong has spoken about being a team player, but that he was punished by two ‘teams’ he has been associated with: the Liberals and the military. After a five-month investigation by the Royal Canadian Navy, Vuong was fined $500 in July 2022 for failing to inform his commanding officer of the sexual assault charge made against him. If he, as part of an organization whose members are supposed to entrust each other with their lives, violated the trust of his direct superior, he could certainly violate ours. 

We know Vuong’s parents were refugees, given that he mentions it frequently, yet he’s happy to defend a state that has turned more than a million people into refugees since 1948. He has also spoken about the time his parents spent in a refugee camp. I wonder how he would feel if a politician living comfortably in the West had used their power to effectively try to take food out of his parents’ mouths by attacking the UN agency bringing it to them? What does it say about his moral character that he has become that politician through his attacks on UNRWA?

If he’s willing to do that, and to lie to his former party and hold back information from the military, and to take a seat in Parliament knowing he probably only got there due to misled constituents, and to craft his votes to support the Conservatives despite what the people he represents seem to want, why wouldn’t he be willing to rebrand as a Zionist to keep his political ambitions alive? 

Are the Conservatives willing to choose Vuong as a candidate? Would the Conservative base care enough about what happened in 2021 to vote for someone else if he was on the ballot? It’s too early to say.

What I can say with confidence is that Vuong should be treated as an outcast — exiled to the political wilderness, and forced to stay there because we know shame won’t stop him from trying to crawl back. 

The Israel lobby has use for him now, and the Conservatives probably appreciate his voting record, but I hope these relations are purely transactional and he’s disposed of as soon as possible.

I expect nothing beyond naked self-interest from either of these forces though, so ultimately it may come down to the people, as it often does. I hope they will see through Vuong’s rebrand.