Tears in Spadina-Fort York as Chow loses in nation-wide move from NDP

Electorate liked her ideas but voted strategically, says candidate who once led polls

Tears were shed at Olivia Chow’s campaign party on election night as New Democrat faithful gathered at the Garrison club in the west Toronto to watch the results unfold.

Supporters knew there was no chance of winning federally, but the results were worse than anyone imagined.

“It’s a sad night for the NDP,” longtime campaigner Bob Gallagher said. “The fact is that there was an overwhelming desire for change. People who want change sometimes understand the NDP will bring it, but other times they think the Liberals will.”

That may be what happened in the Spadina Fort-York riding. Chow lost to incumbent Adam Vaughn of the Liberal party, in what appeared to be a nation-wide pattern.

Chow had said her constituents would tell her they loved her ideas, but felt too much was riding on this election. Her step-son, Mike Layton, said this was the problem.

“I think a lot of people voted out of fear of another four years of Harper,” said Layton. But he thinks the Liberals have a chance at changing things if they listen to what Canadians want.

“You’ve got to hope they’re going to have enough pressure on them to make decisions about the future of our country, which take into heart the environment, workers, and the poor,” said Layton. “Hopefully with that on their minds, they’ll start addressing those issues.”

Chow herself echoed this cautious optimism.

“The NDP was in the lead, I was in the lead, but I can’t second-guess voters looking for change,” she said. “They wanted to get rid of Stephen Harper, and they wanted one person to do it. The results tonight may not be what we have hoped for, but I congratulate Adam Vaughn for running a good campaign and his party for a strong national campaign. And locally, I would like to let Adam know that I support him in progressive change. So should we all.”

As for what’s next in her life, Chow is unsure but leaning towards education.

“I was teaching at Ryerson — I’ll see if they want me back,” she said. “There’s lots to do, and many ways to contribute. I urge everyone who talks about change to keep going. Because democracy isn’t just about voting. It’s about everyday participation and connecting to your government.”

As for Layton, he’s looking forward to quality time with his mother-in-law.

“My wife is about to have our first child,” he said. “I look forward to spending time with Olivia and the family in the coming years and I know she’ll have a lot of wisdom to bestow on our young daughter who’s on the way.”