There’s no getting around it: the election results were heart-breaking.
Even the joy of entering the Post Harper Era was dulled by the blow our party received on Election Day, losing some of our finest Members of Parliament, and crushing our attempt to take the Liberal stronghold of Toronto Centre.
Of course, the disappointing results here in Toronto Centre in no way reflect on our campaign, which was truly excellent and inspiring. Even the intensely Liberal Toronto Star twice referred to our campaign as “spirited.” Campaign manager Cim Nunn and a thoroughly dedicated campaign staff were tireless in their efforts, as were dozens of truly committed volunteers. The hard work and perseverance of everyone involved simply astounded me.
When people outside the campaign would comment on how draining the 11-week campaign must be, I would think – 11 weeks? Hell, our campaign began in earnest last February!
And it only got more intense as the weeks passed, until the final push – when Stephen Lewis made a second personal visit to our office to fire us up, when it was impossible for me to go anywhere in the riding without bumping into teams of our volunteers out canvassing, when the office was buzzing with massive E-Day preparations until well after midnight. And on the big day itself, we had a massive army of more than three hundred volunteers.
Indeed, even now, still stinging from the pain of defeat, I look back on the campaign with a mixture of sadness and joy. What a wonderful, inspiring group effort that was! I came across a quote recently that nicely captured how I feel. I can’t remember the exact words, but it went something like this: joy is feeling part of a collective effort fighting for a cause that matters.
Our campaign was distinctive in many respects. We made a point of reaching out to marginalized groups that are typically ignored by the other parties. The massive apartment towers of St. James Town, for instance, have tended to receive little attention during campaigns, since many of their occupants are newcomers to Canada who are ineligible to vote or are believed to lack the motivation to vote. While the other parties put little effort into this economically-depressed area, we had a truly dedicated team of volunteers who really came to know and relate to the people of St. James Town. Our signs – and our signs alone – were visible everywhere there. I visited every one of the 19 residential towers, and was truly moved when kids from Rose Avenue Public School showed me school projects they were doing on my campaign.
One of my fondest memories of the campaign was the day that a team of volunteers and I spent several hours talking to the hundreds of people lined up for Thanksgiving lunch at the Good Shepherd Refuge on Queen Street. We talked to them about their lives, about the issues in the campaign and the importance of voting. Whether or not many of them actually voted, I felt we connected with them in a way that left me feeling that politics can actually be about democratic engagement.
In the end, however, we were defeated, our campaign swamped along with so many others by the intensity of the popular desire to get rid of Stephen Harper and the mistaken notion that voting Liberal was the only way to ensure this.
Of course, there’s been a lot of criticism of the NDP’s national campaign. I agree that there were things that could have been done differently, and should be done differently in the future. Still, I remain convinced that, overall, our party had the most progressive platform: a national childcare program, $15 an hour federal minimum wage, repeal of Bill C-51, the toughest greenhouse gas reduction targets of any of the parties (including the Greens), higher corporate taxes after years of needless corporate tax cuts, repeal of the outrageous tax break for CEO stock options...I could go on.
But what I really want to do here is express my deepest gratitude to everyone who worked so hard on my campaign, and who have personally supported me, starting with my wonderful daughter Amy.
After we lick our wounds for a while, let’s all rise again to fight for a better world. As Margaret Mead so beautifully put it: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
With fondest regards,