Despite the headaches it involved, I often thought it would be interesting to write a book about the ethnic battles for political advantage in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) from 1950 through to the 21st Century. I lived it. I was part of it. I won some and lost some. What has held me back is too many of the transgressors are still alive and they have maybe a bit of their pride left to protect.
The ethnic wars were never a fair fight. My first direct involvement was the Davenport liberal nominating convention in 1968. It was a marker. My role was as an observer. About 5000 people gathered at the horse palace at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. I learned a lot. The voting process was slow. There were multiple ballots. The final winner was a young Italian immigrant, Charles Caccia. The joke going around was that he won the nomination and went home and painted his house while waiting for the election He served 36 years as MP for Toronto-Davenport.
I always thought the worst and most out-of-control meetings was the one I chaired in St. Catherines-Ontario in 1968. The most impressive of meetings was one in an arena in New Hamburg, Ontario that did not matter. It was not needed because we knew the election was to be called under the old boundaries the following week. The guest speaker was MP Gene Whalen and he was at his funniest for the area farmers. He said they couldn’t have Pierre Trudeau or John Turner as speakers. He said Pierre sent him because he was living proof that anyone can get elected as a liberal.
Skipping to one of the last, was the 1985 Toronto-Fort York nomination meeting in the Toronto Congress Centre, that was a classic ethnic event. It was the first time we had a candidate of Chinese ancestry with a chance to win the riding. The only problem was that Bob Wong was born in Canada and spoke neither Cantonese nor Mandarin. Rather than being a candidate for the Chinese community, Bob was a representative from the Bay Street community, that was also part of Fort York electoral district.
Nice guys are supposed to finish last but we made Bob the exception. They are not going to have a ‘Welcome Back Peter’ event at the Toronto Congress Centre if I ever try to rent space there. We finished multiple ballots after two AM, and sending buses up and down Spadina Avenue and through Chinatown to pick up people who looked Chinese and wanted to vote. I thought we had given it all away when the buses brought a couple loads from the Toronto Mandarin Club, where they were having a formal event, in tuxedos and evening gowns.
But I am not going to tell you how we squeaked through in the actual election. I’m not sure if there is a statute of limitations on provincial elections.
Copyright 2023 © Peter Lowry
Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to: