I first became involved in an election campaign during the Canadian federal election of 1972. Campaigned in the Spadina riding for the New Democratic Party in my neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. Campaigning for Canada’s democratic socialists. This was when living on Beatrice Street with seven other people or so, plus two children, including one born in the house. By the 1980 Canadian federal election, I was campaigning for the Progressive Conservative Party, as it then was.
As I went door-knocking with election literature, I was impressed with the interest in the election on the part of my neighbours, many of whom were new Canadians. To a person, they seemed impressed with the fact that a young person would be campaigning in this fashion. Unlike today, when one generally does not door-knock without the candidate being present, I was campaigning by myself.
At the time, the New Democratic Party did not expect to win the riding. The objective was to get the party’s message out. Contrary to expectations, our candidate, Bob Beardsley, came second, after the winning Liberal Party candidate, Peter Stollery, and ahead of the defeated Progressive Conservative candidate, Perry Ryan.
At the post-election party, there was no sense of loss. Instead, people concentrated on the increased percentages of votes obtained in various polls, compared to the previous election in 1968. There was an appreciation of increasing concentrations of support. This information became valuable for later provincial and municipal elections. By the 1978 municipal election, Toronto had its first mayor considered to be aligned with the policies of the New Democratic Party–John Sewell. Federally, by 1981, the riding was held by New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Dan Heap, someone who had also been quite active in the 1972 federal election campaign in Spadina. He held the riding for twelve years, before retiring from federal politics. Provincially, by the 1990 Ontario provincial election, the related portion of the riding was held by New Democratic Member Rosario Marchese Marchese had developed his political base in part through spending the previous eight years, from 1982 to 1990, as a member of the Toronto school board.
Always some victory in defeat. Defeat in one area leading to victory and influence in others. Always some lessons from the present for future. To my mind, much political success is based on not commiserating over an unsuccessful campaign, but learning from the strengths of it, plus identifying other political forums to which such lessons may be applied. Thirty year-old lessons remembered when later, in the 1993 Canadian federal election, campaigning for the Reform Party of Canada.