There were a few complaints the other day when I mentioned that the new democratic party had its hey-day back in the 1960s and 70s. What I did not explain was that the party meant something back then. I was being accused of ignoring what was called the Orange Wave when Jack Layton won 59 seats for the NDP in Quebec in the 2011 federal election. That was an aberration.
The Orange Wave told you far more about Quebec voters and Jack Layton than it did about the NDP.
I will never accuse Quebec voters of being whimsical but they certainly do have some fun at the polls. In 2011, they wanted to give the Canadian salute of one finger to both Canada’s conservative and liberal parties and were tired of the Bloc Québécois—and along came Montreal-born Jack Layton!
I had known Jack Layton long before he became a favourite of Canadian media. We were political enemies. Over the years, I had worked on the liberal side and he for the NDP. The most interesting win was in Toronto’s Fort York riding in the 1987 provincial election. That was when liberal Bob Wong became the first Canadian of Chinese descent to win a seat in the Ontario Legislature.
To add interest to the election, Jack was running the NDP campaign in Fort York and Olivia Chow, whom Jack married shortly thereafter, was working for the riding returning officer. That made for some awkward maneuvering in the campaign. It was a tough enough campaign when you had to communicate effectively with part of Toronto’s Portuguese-speaking community, in various Chinese dialects, part of Toronto’s gay community and the downtown Canadian native community. I always thought it would have helped if our candidate could speak more than a few words in Chinese.
As an aside on this little story, I must admit that I am delighted that Kevin Vuong just won what is now Spadina-Fort York riding as a liberal—after Justin Trudeau denounced him without proof of any wrong-doing. Kevin has every right to sit as an independent. Mr. Trudeau and Toronto Star should not be so quick to condemn people without trial or jury.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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