NDP to form official opposition for first time

TORONTO (CUP) — The New Democratic Party of Canada has amassed its biggest representation in the House of Commons in the party’s 50-year history.

As of 1:30 a.m. on May 3, the NDP was elected or leading in 103 ridings, up from the 37 they won in 2008. Also for the first time in history, the NDP will form the official Opposition.

Throughout the night the crowd at the NDP victory party grew to over 3,000 and once at capacity, the venue had to be extended to allow for more NDP supporters to filter in.

Speaking at the end of the evening, Layton thanked all the volunteers from all parties, as well as the youth that voted in the election. He thanked “the tens of thousands of young Canadians, some of whom voted for the very first time.”

“You, young Canadians, are an inspiration and a source of hope for our country’s future,” Layton told the crowd.

The Globe and Mail reported that youth took advantage of social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube like never before, a phenomenon that largely benefited the NDP more than any other party. This is mostly because Layton ran what was widely considered a forward-looking and positive campaign in comparison to the other party leaders.

The youth Layton spoke of, according to Wilfrid Laurier University student Kingsley Iwenofu, helped the NDP to victory this election. Iwenofu, a fourth-year law and society student, said youth were “tired of being told that their opinions and their voices won’t be heard,” and advocated for the youth vote through things like vote mobs.

“[Youth] wanted to make a very bold statement today that they are the future of Canada and they want to pave the way for future generations,” said Iwenofu, “And the NDP is what they chose.”

The NDP was found to be the most popular party among those aged 18-24 in Quebec in a Historica-Dominion survey conducted of 831 youth. Maclean’s reported that these numbers are relatively unchanged since the Institute’s 2008 Youth Election study, where 27 per cent of Quebec youth leaned towards the New Democrats.

Olivia Chow, re-elected NDP candidate for Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina and Layton’s wife, spoke first, reiterating what she said has been her promise to her constituents since they first elected.

“I promise to be a voice to women, to children, to immigrants, to students, to our elders,” Chow told an elated crowd. “And to the many who have been left out in the cold and were not represented fairly in Parliament.”

When asked later about what she believes her responsibilities are to the students of her riding, which is home to the Ontario College of Art and Design University and part of the University of Toronto, Chow highlighted student debt and high tuition costs.

“Well the students of my riding, many of them have a huge student debt,” she said. “Tuition fees are extremely high and it’s important that we invest in post-secondary education and help out with student debt.”

Chow’s statement coincides directly with her party’s pledge to lower tuition fees through a dedicated $800-million transfer to the provinces, as laid out in their previously proposed post-secondary education act.

Youth had a strong presence at tonight’s rally and as cheers overcame Layton’s speech at numerous moments, his overall message resonated throughout the crowd as positive as his campaign had been run throughout the election period.

“Tommy Douglas, our first leader said, ‘Dream no little dreams,’” Layton said. “And I’ve always taken that to heart. Step by step, working together, we can build a Canada we want.”