Sima Sahar Zerehi – There was a buzz, people who had never voted before, people who had never even imagined working on a political campaign in support of a party, people who had previously decided to eat their ballots, people who had made voter apathy into a lifestyle, people brandishing tattoos that read “no matter who you vote for the government always gets in”, all kinds of misfits and mavericks were talking about Jack.
I was still in my combat boots, army pants, political t-shirts phase, heart broken after the demise of the global justice movement, and looking to make change on a local level.
At the time I was living and working in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, avoiding what I thought was the bourgeois pursuit of higher education by missing as many classes as possible at UBC and knee deep in a co-op housing project.
When I first met Jack Layton in a small local dive-bar in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, I had very little time or patience for party politics. To me, he was just another white-bread politician, speaking working class union talk, trying to co-opt the youth vote.
But there was too much hype around the man to turn down a chance to meet him face to face over a pint of beer.
So I went to the meeting, ordered a beer and for the next hour, learned my first lesson in party politics. Jack was a charmer, full-handle-bar moustache, rosy cheeks, piercing blue eyes, wearing jeans and a white button-down shirt with the arms folded-up. He was all firm-handshake working-man-style, big smile, with enough energy to not only light up the dark dingy patio but the entire block.
Yes boys and girls, he had done his research, he knew our neighbourhood, he was informed about our commitment to public housing, he pegged us from first sight as the veterans of the global justice movement and he talked us into a political frenzy. In short he promised what all disenchanted youth want – change and hope.
Before I was done my beer, I knew that this was the man who was going to put team orange on the political map – and that was before I met his other half, Olivia Chow.
There’s no doubt that Jack Layton has done a great deal for the NDP, since assuming the leadership of the party in 2003; he has been able to exponentially increase their seats in the House of Commons. Yet, to date Layton has failed to live up to our hopes for real political change in Canada.
The misfits and mavericks that joined his orange bandwagon eventually took out their piercings and covered their tattoos and dawned respectable khakis and button-down shirts, although with the sleeves rolled-up and mismatching ties.
It seemed that the hope of a new era for Canadian politics had been just another empty promise, until this week.
A few years older, with a slightly thinner stash, and an ever-receding hairline Jack is back and rising to the top.
In an election that threatened to deliver the same-old-same-old Jack is shaking up Harper’s dreams of a monopoly and the monotony of the red and blue duopoly.
In recent polls the NDP is positioned as a close second with 30 per cent, only 5 percept behind the Conservatives and 8 per cent ahead of the Liberals.
It’s nice to know that even in Canadian politics, a political tsunami is possible, and that a vote can still make a difference.
Maybe the Arab Spring is blowing a warm wind towards the old-man winter of Canadian politics; after all we saw a 34.5% increase in the advance polls last week with over 2 million Canadians voting.
So c’mon vote mobs, c’mon idealistic youth, let’s go new Canadians, together we can shake up this tired old system, so even if you’re going to spoil your ballot, show up to the polls and make this election count.
Make your mark – mark your ballot.