Huddled in the back of the North End Café, with a spread resembling a potluck, the NDP camp’s election night celebration could not have been more spartan or more jovial.
Among the bottles of beer and tables of food, a somewhat tired Tisha Kalmanovitch played host as cheers spontaneously broke with each punch of the NDP orange delivered on the live newsfeed; candidate after candidate winning to produce an NDP official opposition with 102 seats.
“I’m happy. What we aimed for as a success was to increase our percentage of the vote locally,” said Kalmanovitch. “People might now start thinking that there is an alternative to the Conservatives.”
At the end of the evening, with 13,322 votes to her name, Kalmanovitch held 22 per cent of the vote—up significantly from the 15 per cent achieved by Tish Lakes in the last election.
Nevertheless, the evening likely held the hallmarks of many NDP celebrations across the country with candidates who started the race not expecting to win, or achieve results anywhere near as positive as delivered, finding themselves in serious contention.
Campaign chair Sean Russo, for example, wasn’t present for much of the night, spending an evening on the road helping volunteers and leaving the polling station results to a core group trying to track numbers on their own spreadsheet.
The set-up meant no one in the room had real numbers when the Conservative and Liberal camps started seeing results and Kalmanovitch’s initial neck-and-neck showing with Conservative Ron Cannan almost went unnoticed.
“You’re kidding,” the candidate said when she heard, before turning to shout out the news to the rest of the room.
Those milling about—a mix of local activists, labour movement heads and a solid youth contingent—erupted into a huge cheer, buoying an already the elevated spirit.
Whether youth actually had an impact on this election, locally or nationally, could not be determined by Tuesday, though there was speculation the cross-country Vote Mobs were playing a role in the NDP’s success.
Michael McDonald, a Kelowna high school student who voted for the first time Monday morning, said he felt disheartened by the national vote results.
“The NDP forming the Opposition, I can live with that. But a Conservative majority is something I can’t understand,” McDonald said.
Reflecting on the Conservative win, he added: “When we see where this party takes us, we are going to be saying, ‘Where are we living?’
“The political landscape of Canada has been forever altered.”
Nowhere is this altered political reality more evident, though, than in Quebec where the NDP all but pushed the Bloc Québécois off the political map, taking 58 of the 75 seats in the province.
In the aftermath of the campaign, pundits from coast to coast were questioning whether polling wasn’t at least partially responsible for the orange surge. The party’s eleventh hour rally came on the heels of polls indicating Layton’s party was well ahead in the Eastern province.