Five reasons why Grant Gordon’s “Orange or Red” byelection campaign could have used some work
I live in Toronto-Danforth, and I’m a card-carrying member of the NDP. Like many of my New Democrat neighbours, I went into my riding’s byelection ready to vote for Layton successor Craig Scott, unless he or one of the other candidates gave us all a good reason not to. That’s what Liberal challenger Grant Gordon clearly tried to do in an early election flyer, which asked us if we’re “Orange or Red.”
“Here’s a quick look at what the Liberals have accomplished as a government in Ottawa,” the cover page says, “compared to what the NDP has accomplished.” Open up the flyer, and you’ll find a list of twenty-seven accomplishments in the Liberal column, dating back to 1874 – and zero accomplishments in the NDP column.
Now, truth be told, I like Grant Gordon. He seems like a good man, an engaged debater, and a worthy candidate. He was one of the architects of the FLICK OFF campaign, which had an infamously terrible name accentuated by a horribly ill-advised logo, but which nonetheless made its mark. He’s married to Gill Deacon, who I really like. For these reasons and more, he stands a fighting chance of becoming our riding’s next MP.
But yeah, you know what? Here’s why the “Orange or Red” argument just doesn’t work:
- The New Democratic Party didn’t even exist until 1961; the first nine Liberal accomplishments predate the party, and the tenth (“Canadian Flag”) was achieved four years later.
- Throughout the NDP’s entire history, with the exception of the past ten months and change, the Liberals have either been the governing party or the official opposition, which put them in a much better position to get things done in Ottawa than the NDP.
- Obviously, I say “with the exception of the past ten months” because the Liberals were demolished in May’s election, while the NDP surged in popularity to become the official opposition for the first time in its history.
- Not only have none of the accomplishments on Gordon’s list been achieved since the NDP overtook the Liberals, but none of them have been achieved since 2005 – the year before the Conservatives ended thirteen years of Liberal rule.
- Even the current Liberal leader, Bob Rae, arguably achieved much more politically during his tenure with the NDP. Not only did he serve as the party’s first and only Premier of Ontario for nearly six years, but he also served for years as a New Democrat MP in this very riding.
There are other reasons, of course. I’ll leave out the fact that it’s probably not a good idea to suggest that left-leaning voters might be “Red” and not even know it.
Either way, the bottom line is that when Gordon and the Liberals compare themselves to the NDP, they’re comparing the relative inexperience of an emerging new force in federal government to the extensive track record of an old and troubled party.
It’s compelling on the surface, despite the fact that Gordon and Scott are both newcomers with no experience on the Hill. But for a party that’s so concerned with “rebuilding from the ground up,” as Gordon puts it, the Liberals have shown a strange and telling commitment to leaning on their past at a time when their future is in jeopardy.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. The votes haven’t yet been counted, and Gordon might yet win this thing. Craig Scott’s a good man, but with all due respect, he’s no Jack Layton. Neither are any of the current federal leadership contenders, or anyone else in the party, for that matter. The gains the party made under Layton aren’t guaranteed to last, and the NDP’s going to have to fight just to hold the ground it’s gained. Whether they can do it in Toronto-Danforth tonight, and throughout the country in the long term, remains to be seen.
What do you think? Who’s got your vote? Who do you think’s going to take it? Feel free to sound off in the comments before they count this thing up.
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