I was one of those Americans who threatened to move to Canada if George W. Bush was reelected. Rewind to March 2003: I was 17 years old living in New York. Classmates were still mourning relatives who’d lost their lives on 9/11. The Patriot Act, the War on Terror, and the War in Afghanistan had been in full swing for a year and a half. The president announced that our country would be conducting a campaign of “shock and awe” to oust President Saddam Hussein from Iraq. There were whispers of a possible draft, right as I was about to reach draft age. I led a walkout at my high school to protest the illegal invasion.
Right at that time, the Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, announced that Canada would not be joining this senseless war of adventurism. At that moment I declared that if George W. Bush was reelected, I would move to Canada, and decided to visit Toronto for the first time.
Chrétien’s Canada circa 2003 was an amazing place for a young progressive. Beyond Canada refusing to be complicit in the war, Ontario and British Columbia had just legalized same-sex marriage as I was starting the Gay-Straight Alliance in my high school. The GDP grew by 3.1% that year. The country was on track to a sensible drug policy. The wealth gap was still small compared to the US. Many of these things could be attributed to the Liberal majority in both Ottawa and Queen’s Park, and it left a lasting impression. After I moved to Canada, my support for the Liberals continued, even as the Conservatives wrested power and have formed the government for the last 9 years.
Tomorrow morning, an e-mail from me will be sent to NDP supporters in the new University-Rosedale riding in Toronto, urging people to support and donate to the Jennifer Hollett campaign. How did this happen? Bill C-51. Bill C-51 is Canada’s version of the Patriot Act, and it has passed the House of Commons with the unanimous support of the Liberal Party. I am shocked, outraged, and feel so disappointed in the party I have supported since 2003. C-51 is an egregious violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that has been roundly criticized by experts from all ideological backgrounds, and the NDP is the only party that can repeal it. A vote for the NDP is a vote to repeal C-51, and I will be knocking on doors to tell people my story this summer.
Last weekend I went to my first NDP event, Jennifer Hollett’s campaign launch. I was surprised to be greeted by so many who knew me, and I realized, maybe the NDP has actually been the party for me all along. Ideologically, I have always been more progressive than the Liberal Party, and I see in the NDP a party committed to building a more compassionate Canada, and bringing a social democratic government to this country. I am inspired by Jennifer and her team. They said the NDP couldn’t win in Quebec; they did. They said the NDP couldn’t win in Alberta, they did. They say the NDP can’t form the government federally. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.