The Campaign Trail
There was so much energy in the air throughout the weeks of the campaign. The campaign staff was dedicated to a cause larger than themselves and their enthusiasm definitely spread to the numerous volunteers that revolved the campaign office doors on 7217 rue Saint-Denis. The riding was on alert – a Trudeau, and the eyes of both nations – were on Papineau. It did not take long, especially after Justin’s bilingual campaign video, for the election to be divided almost entirely on federalist and separatist sentiments. This resulted in multiple visits to the campaign office by overtly disturbed members of the Papineau riding with the presence of a Trudeau, as well as, an organized visit by the Jeunes Patriotes du Québec on September 24th, 2008 chanting “Pas de Trudeau en Papineau”.
October 14th, 2008 – Election Day
Since I wanted to make this election memorable and since I was personally invested in the election, I wanted to experience how the Canadian Federal Election machine worked (in order to find ways on how to introduce technological advancements in order to increase voter turnout and citizen political participation – topic for a later date), I was a poll clerk for Polling Station 018A, the polling station located in l’école secondaire Joseph-François Perrault that my family and I have always voted in.
It was an interesting day to say the least. The representatives for the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals were there all day and both were blaming each other for possible breaches in Elections Canada procedures. Both Justin Trudeau and Vivian Barbot made a presence at the polling station demonstrating its importance but one thing was missing – the voters. If I remember correctly, it was the lowest turnout in a Federal Election.
And the future looks grim in my polling station since a significant number of voters were elderly and/or retired. I saw many families (mostly newly arrived immigrants that have been awarded the right to vote, come together and vote). I saw many people on the registry where only one or two members of the family (according to last names and civic addressed) presented themselves and whole families were absent from the ballot.
After my ballot boxes were counted and my results report were handed in, I headed directly to Justin’s campaign office to follow the national elections results. By the time I got there, it was clear that the Conservative Party of Canada were going to win but that they have lost some of their support in Quebec. The Papineau riding was still not declared as red or blue and it remained that way until past midnight. In the backrooms, the campaign staff were working hard crunching the numbers and analyzing trends. The packed room was getting impatient but not really for the delay in seeing Justin enter (since he did not arrive yet) that day but to celebrate in his, and their, victory.
Finally, with a consistent margin of approximately 1,000 votes (with the final being 1,230) Justin gave his victory speech to his volunteers, media, family and friends – the nation. As I stood at the front right hand side of the stage, I looked around the room and must have seen a face from almost every race found in Montreal. It was a democratic mosaic waiting to be exposed to the rest of the nation.
When Justin stepped away from answers the media’s questions, he was confronted with a wave of enthusiasm that sent me backwards. There were members that came to him running, pulling on his arms, as he tried making his way to the back of the room for televised interviews looking up at him and shouting, “You can do it Justin!”, “Don’t forget us!” “Make us proud!” The belief in that room that day that one person can and will make the difference that they need to see in order to have a better life in Papineau was mind-blowing.
But, I do believe that throughout the campaign, with the culmination leading to that night, Justin absorbed the expectations of his members, and residents, of the Papineau riding and the energy and motivation that such a support can generate for its team. I will never forget that night. Je me souviens the night my riding came alive.
Justin won Papineau on his own, and in my opinion, with little outright help from the Federal Liberal Party’s leadership and/or its forerunners. I know that in many cases, Justin actually got deserted by usual bases of volunteer support in the provincial and national parties because they believed he didn’t need it because he was TRUDEAU! Liberal membership campaigns and door-to-door blitz’s, which were organized weeks in advance with a significant confirmation of support from reliable support groups, ended up being just a handful at best.
One of the most memorable quotes from these past two years must have been when a reporter on election night next to me asked Justin what his father would have said to him now that he have entered politics. Justin replied that his father would have been proud that he had done it his way!
In the meantime, Saint-Michel continues to be my home. I love the fact that it is not uncommon to see a devout North African or South Asian Muslim, after Friday prayer, exiting their ‘mosque’ located in the basement of the once vibrant manufacturing buildings (where my grandmother used to work in when she first arrived here) along Papineau’s main artery – the Trans-Canada Highway (or as we Montrealers call it, “La Métropolitaine” or “The Met”). Neither is it uncommon to walk around a Sunday morning with incense, organ playing and church bells occupying the silence of thousand year old Catholic and Orthodox rituals celebrated in Italian and Greek with the majority of their spectators born in the ‘old country’ with the words ‘Ora Pro Nobis’ (‘Pray for Us’) hanging over their heads … this is where I am from … I love being able, within the same building, drop my clothes off at a Haitian-run dry cleaners; buy the newspaper at the Vietnamese dépanneur and peak into the Dominican hair salon and see them performing their ‘magic’ … this is where I am from!
Canadians from all parts of the country, “Once more into the breach, dear friends” and come join us because the battle is still being fought is going down in Papineau. It is not a conventional war, like the ones we have lived through, the Quebec Referendum wars of 1980 and 1995, the Kitchen Accord, Meech Lake Accord, and Charlottetown Accord wars. It is a war of hearts!
YES OUI CAN! YES TO ENGLISH CANADA, OUI AU CANADA FRANÇAIS! YES OUI CAN(ADA)