Today, I reluctantly shed my blue flannel pyjamas to vote in Montreal’s municipal election. I met James en route, and, in true grad student fashion, we arrived at the polling station with not more than five minutes to spare. (Aside to James: Have we become pathologically incapable of doing anything in a punctual manner?)
Afterwards, we had dinner at Le Jardin du Cari, and discussed our likely futile votes over what is indisputably the best lentil soup in the city. James remarked that he had never in his life voted for a successful political candidate; I noted that I had, exactly once. Then I told the story.
On September 6, 1990, just days after my nineteenth birthday, I helped to elect the New Democratic Party to political office in Ontario. It was a complete shock, as the NDP had never before won an election in the province, and no one in their right mind expected them to win that one, much less with a solid majority.
Watching the results come in with the radicals at Kathedral B, I felt like I was in a dream. I would soon be governed by card-carrying socialists, in a province that had been ruled by Conservatives for 42 of the preceding 47 years. It was like winning the lottery, only the money would be equitably distributed to all Ontarians, irrespective of their race, class, or sexual orientation.
We all know what happened next. Ontario suffered its worst economic decline since the Great Depression, and, instead of cutting social programs, Premier Bob Rae implemented the Social Contract, which required most government employees to take ten days off without pay each year. Public sector unions went completely apeshit and withdrew their political support for the NDP, both federally and provincially. Sadly, the party has never been the same since.
I happened to be working for Ontario’s public broadcaster at the time, and I remember well the fury that the “Rae Days” unleashed among my coworkers. Many, I am sure, voted for Mike Harris in the next election, who promptly slashed social programs and laid off thousands of government employees. Several hundred of my colleagues lost their jobs, and I wish I could ask them if they are still kicking themselves. If not, I would gladly do it for them.
In any case, I voted for Projet Montréal today, who are expected to receive approximately 4% of the total electoral vote. Then again, you just never know...