Building the Orange Wave, Brad Lavigne

Today my dearest friend sent me a message saying, “It just makes me feel dead.”

He was talking about Bill 10, a piece of legislation put forward in response to Laurie Blakeman’s arguably superior Bill 202, which has sparked more than just some controversy. Today, after watching a livestream of Premier Prentice’s press conference, I was the kind of angry that shimmers in your bones. I walked for awhile. Finding myself at the Legislature, where the Christmas lightup was about to happen, I stood alone near the back of the crowd listening to Anti-Flag. It mingled nicely with the chants of a few groups of protesters who braved the mild winter evening. Bill 10 has now been delayed while Government conducts consultations on the constitutionality of mandating gay-straight alliance in schools.

And to that, and to the Progressive Conservative caucus, I have four simple words: fuck you, you’re wrong.

You see, I hate politics. But I love Alberta. It’s an endless cycle of disappointment that the Bill 10/202 debacle brought into miserable focus.

I needed, then, to read something relentlessly hopeful. When’s the last time Canadian voters had good reasons to feel hopeful? We almost never do. We did, though, in 2011. Le Bon Jack gave us reasons to be hopeful. Reasons to believe that the people we elect could do things simply because those things are right, and not only because they are politically advantageous. That the people we elect could recognize that political advantageousness should relate at its core to doing things because they are right, to protecting our most vulnerable, and to striving to create the best nation possible. The best nation possible is an extraordinary one, and in 2011, Jack Layton united more Canadians than ever in the belief that we should strive for no less.

Three years is a long time. I was in Dubai for much of the 2011 election. I missed out on the Orange Wave, returning to an airport filled with television screens broadcasting a Conservative majority (no huge surprise) and an NDP official opposition (wait a second). For a minute there, we were really on to something. This book, written by Brad Lavigne, a NDP’s 2011 campaign director, offers tremendous insights into how, in practical terms, the NDP political machine constructed that victory. The bad guys don’t always win. There are actual strategies that you can use to get your message across, and wonder of wonders, they can get your folks elected. It takes years, though. This book doesn’t pull those punches. It took a full decade for Jack and company to build that striking victory. But they did it, and that’s the important thing. We can do better tomorrow than we did today; we can strive for a politics that doesn’t make extraordinary people feel dead about it.

I’m still angry. But I’m a small measure less cynical than I was three hours ago. I’m not going to punch anything, but I might go pour a glass of whiskey and look at pictures of the farm my father grew up on. As a reminder, you see.

Books read: 8


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