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Live…from NDP party headquarters…its Holy Jack Layton!

May 3, 2011


Impressions from the Layton election party (last night)…

So, we decided to go to the NDP party headquarters last night to see first-hand “Canadian history” in the making. The Toronto Convention Centre is, as everyone knows, the perfect warm-and-fuzzy environment for such an event. What with its cavernous concrete space, beige walls, and set dead in the middle of Toronto’s tourist district (where with the Blue Jays playing out of town was a dead zone). It was a perfect venue for NDP Monday night politics.

I went hoping for some kind of “Hunter Thompson at the 1968 Democratic Convention” kind of experience – but that kind of freak show has long since left the stage. There was no entertainment, no circus acts, no waves of righteous spontaneous crowd singing or dancing.  There was no after-hours spilling into the streets like we were jubilent Habs fans, or revenge-quenched muscle-flexing Americans. It is Toronto afterall, and everyone has to work today, so lets not get too crazy with the $10 glasses of wine. People applauded when directed to do so, and as soon as Jack made his mediocre victory speech it was straight home and to bed for everyone.

I overheard one woman say to her friend that she was leaving early, because she had an early yoga class this morning.

Nor was NDP party headquarters the place to be if you are a commentary junkie and like to listen along as the night’s tallies started rolling in on TV networks. For, although there were huge screens set up around the room, there was mostly no sound, so we couldn’t listen to the beautiful Peter Mansbridge give us his sage insights into this historic evening in Canadian politics. (Mansbridge is even more ridiculous looking when you can’t listen to him. – to say nothing of Rex Murphy.) Nor could we listen to Iggy’s and Duceppe’s concession speeches.

All we could do was watch their political tragedy – the end of these men’s political careers – to the sound of early ’90’s techno music thumping throughout the room. 

Elizabeth May got almost as loud an ovation as Jack did when she won her seat. (Some NDP’ers still care about the environment.) 

 Jack did not even mention the environment in his victory speech until half way through: its all “helping the family”, “retirement security” and “economic fairness” in the NDP mantra now.

It was soon pretty clear that the NDP Party is now situated (ideologically speaking) where the Liberals used to stand in the ’70s and ’80’s, and the Green are the environmental consciousness that used to be the old NDP.

The Liberals – after Martin, Dion, and Iggy – had no where further right they could go with their platforms without stepping on the Conservative’s toes and so bowed out, and off the stage.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry watching Bob Rae on the monitors – who at one time seemed to have backed the right horse – now booed by his old comrades and left to clean up the remaining wreckage that is the Liberal Party.

Canada’s ruling party of the 20th century, the party that got us through wars, most of the 1960’s and 1970’s, who brought much of Canada’s social policy to fruition, who had a Nobel Peace Prize winner for a leader (imagine these guys doing anything worthy of a Nobel today?), is now a colossal train-wreck.

Anyway, last night history was made, or at least that is what we will tell ourselves. Harper has his coveted majority, the NDP are the official opposition, and the ideological battlelines are in place. Over the next 4-5 years we will begin to decide the economic direction and social policy re-alignment that could determine the make-up of Canada for the next half century. Healthcare, policing, education, multiculturalism, the environment are now all on the line.

Get ready for the ride…

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