A late-campaign surge by Jack Layton saw the New Democratic Party for the first time in its history come in second at the national level, displacing Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals [see “Just Visiting”] as Official Opposition. The final election results counted 103 Seats for the New Democratic Party up from 36 with a remarkable 59 out of 75 Quebec – historically a New Democratic Party wasteland until then.
Interesting, Jack Layton was hardly a novelty, unknown phenomenon in 2011; he had led his party in the two previous elections. However, his high-profile battle with cancer (which tragically claimed his life short months following his historic breakthrough), symbolized by a cane jauntily displayed at all campaign stops, and his overall sunny ways, in contrast to the general dourness of the three other party leaders, caught the public’s admiration and imagination. In fact, upon his passing he has come to be referred to as “St. Jack” in certain circles.
In the English-language debate, Layton’s star was further burnished when he shamed Liberal Leader Ignatieff over his absences from Parliament. While in Quebec, the New Democratic Party leader was celebrated as a “Bon Jack”, with an accessible, “average Joe” persona that Quebecers could relate to.
The 2011 Orange Crush proved to be ephemeral. In the 2015 federal election, with the charismatic Layton no longer at the party’s helm, the NDP went from Orange Crush to “Orange Crash” – losing almost two thirds of its seats as the anti-Harper vote coalesced around the energetic Liberal campaign of Justin Trudeau.
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