The Liberals’ wake and some parting remarks

Mitchel Raphael on the Liberals’ wake and some parting remarks
A new day: Peter Milliken with Ted Hsu

The final humiliation: a cash bar

Last week the Liberals gathered the night before what would be their final caucus meeting with both defeated and elected MPs. One Liberal staffer called the party a “wake”; a Hill security guard predicted it would end early because it was a cash bar. Surviving Toronto Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan arrived with a bandaged hand that will need surgery. “I fell on Wednesday and the government fell on the Friday,” she says. Five weeks campaigning didn’t help: “Even when you break your hand,” said Duncan, “people still want to shake it.” Some days ended with Duncan in excruciating pain. Defeated MP Marlene Jennings arrived with a white cane, announcing that she is now officially vision-impaired. The one person who spoke at the party was surviving MP Ralph Goodale, but no one seemed to be listening; former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff left before Goodale spoke. The Liberals’ only two rookie MPs were there: Sean Casey from Charlottetown and Ted Hsu from Kingston, Ont., which was previously represented by Speaker Peter Milliken. Hsu’s win was a surprise for the Conservatives, who for years said that once Milliken retired they would easily win the riding.

Goodbye Fatima!

With the defeat of so many MPs come the aftershocks on the capital’s dining scene. Defeated Liberals Mark Holland, Navdeep Bains and Mario Silva were regulars at the Green Door vegetarian restaurant, hitting the buffet a few days a week. “I am worried about the Green Door,” says Holland. “We gave a lot of business to them over the years. When you are up here you don’t eat well. Their food was always exceptional and healthy.” The defeat of the Bloc means that just over the Ottawa River in Gatineau, the owner of the Moroccan restaurant Chez Fatima, Fatima Semlali, will miss many of her regulars. For seven years the Bloc gathered in small groups several nights a week; some, like Serge Ménard, came alone for the excellent food and superb hospitality. The Bloc even had parties for their whole caucus in a special upstairs dining room. Returning to clear out her office, defeated MP Nicole Demers was in tears when she went to Chez Fatima for lunch.

Never again, says this former MP

The day after the dismal election results for the Liberals, defeated Ontario MP Glen Pearson had his old job back at the London Food Bank. Since he did not serve at least six years as an MP, he does not qualify for a pension. He says he will still get a small pension from his years as a firefighter. But with three children, Pearson notes he will need to cut back. That means selling his Smart car and motorcycle. Pearson plans to continue his humanitarian work in Africa with former PM Paul Martin, who has taken a keen interest in that continent. Michael Ignatieff called Pearson after the defeat and said: “We didn’t take easy to politics. It was always difficult for both of us.” Pearson was pressured by members of his party to go after Bev Oda, the minister of international co-operation, because he was the critic for the Canadian International Development Agency. Pearson never attacked and consistently spoke of wanting to work with Oda to improve the way Canada delivers aid through CIDA. Oda sent him a nice text after his loss. Pearson says he will never run again, noting it’s “a very alienating experience.”

When voters bash your dad

Surviving Liberal MP Mark Eyking had his two sons, who both live in Ottawa now, knock on doors for him in Cape Breton during the last week of the election. One man, not knowing who he was talking to, told Jonah Eyking: “I wouldn’t vote for Eyking if he was the last man on earth.” When the young Eyking told the man his connection and added, “Try being raised by him,” it elicited a smile—and an Eyking vote.