1 of 2
2 of 2
The Rosario Marchese party didn't have any TV screens.
Not officially, anyway. On election night, supporters of Trinity-Spadina's long-time NDP MPP were left huddling around a CBC crew's video monitor and laptop. A few lucky ones, including councillors Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam, managed to find a side room with a proper set hung on the wall.
For the rest of those who hoped to follow results from the Steelworkers Hall on Cecil, the manual tally sheets with scrutineers' numbers would have to suffice. But even they stopped getting updated before long.
Marchese, who came to Queen's Park in the Bob Rae surge of 1990 and took five elections since, was defeated by 9,175 votes. The Liberals' Han Dong was expected to win but not by this much. (For results, as well as profiles of all candidates and ridings, see NOW's election map.)
Half-heartedly nibbling on empanadas and ham sandwiches, the crowd was quiet until Marchese finally entered at a quarter to 11. He sported a bright orange pin in the shape of a bicycle.
And the man who, at one time or another, had been his party's critic on pretty much every file had zero criticism for the party itself and any role it might have played in his defeat.
To those who may think otherwise, he thunderously affirmed, "the NDP has lost not one iota of its principles in this campaign. Not one iota!"
He was almost gracious to the point of seeming out of touch. At the least, his take on the situation was counterintuitive.
"I speak for the party when I say this: the party has principles and will always have those principles," he said. "And the question of strategy or language will change from time to time. But that's all that has changed. Not the fundamentals."
He spoke of progressive taxation and redistribution of wealth, in those very words. Perhaps he was acting as an Andrea Horwath-to-downtown Toronto translator. Or perhaps, resigned to his fate, he was just getting stuff off his chest.
"It's a very dynamic riding ... And I have to say that they have retired me, perhaps for the better."
"Nooo!" his supporters disagreed.
"I'll repeat it: they have given me the freedom to retire."
In a scrum, I pressed him on the complicated relationship Toronto's NDP incumbents have had with Horwath. He shrugged it off.
"She approached the issues in a different way, using a language that clearly did not go well for some people in Trinity-Spadina," he said. "And I think the message overall found a better reception outside of Toronto, but it didn't have a great reception here in my riding. And that's a... you live with that."
Going into the election, the NDP held five seats in the city: Trinity-Spadina (Rosario Marchese), Beaches-East York (Michael Prue), Davenport (Jonah Schein), Toronto-Danforth (Peter Tabuns), and Parkdale-High Park (Cheri DiNovo). As of Thursday night, only Tabuns and DiNovo remain, the latter squeaking by with just 525 votes.
Marchese's dejected supporters seemed more disappointed by his defeat than he did, and more willing to blame party leadership.
Councillor Wong-Tam's not affiliated with any party but has enormous respect and affection for Marchese; she'd been working with him on local and provincial issues since long before she held office herself.
"My sense is that there are some folks who are upset with perhaps some of the messaging from the leader of the New Democratic Party," she said, "but I would imagine that people were smart enough to distinguish that there's a big difference between leaders. Leaders often come and go - and I'm not saying that Andrea should go, I just think that Rosario deserved to stay. He has proven himself many times over."
Sean Meagher, a community organizer with connections to and influence with City Council's progressive faction, was blunter in his assessment of the party's direction.
"I can't think of another time the New Democrats held the balance of power and did less with it in the history of the country."
Han Dong's event was 50 metres east of Marchese's, at the Polish Combatants Hall on the other side of the street. You could see into one party from the windows of the other.
The mood there, obviously, was different. The music was louder, the crowd was larger, the supporters more diverse. Pierogies and sushi and dim sum were served. Only Chinese cakes failed to attract much interest.
Dong, who started canvassing last August, played down his own role in his victory and big-upped the party machine. "Kathleen Wynne and her plan is very well-liked in this riding."
He also praised Adam Vaughan - running for the Liberals in the June 30 Trinity-Spadina federal by-election - and the advice and guidance the former councillor offered.
But Vaughan's contributions were also a bit more tangible: the campaigns shared volunteers.
The Dong campaign "brought both the Liberal [organization] and my organization together," Vaughan said. "We brought new people to this process. This is a whole new, different Liberal Party."
At the election-night celebration, Vaughan was no less popular than Dong. Everyone wanted to meet him and take pictures.
"There is a different kind of liberalism that's being practiced. It's a more creative liberalism, it's a more progressive liberalism, it's a more urban liberalism, and that's why a riding like Trinity-Spadina has embraced it," he said.
When Vaughan speaks of "liberalism," he may mean the word to be capitalized.
He says they do a "different kind of politics" in the riding. "It's not about ideology, it's about ideas."
By 12:30 am, Michael Prue's party has largely emptied out.
The Beaches-East York race still hasn't been called, and the Naval Club of Toronto at Gerrard and Woodbine is littered with half-eaten vegetables and downtrodden dips.
The last nervous faithful pace back and forth, councillors Janet Davis and Mary Fragedakis among them. Prue himself wears an adorable black sweater, embroidered with the logo of the old Borough of East York. He was the municipality's final mayor, before briefly serving on the amalgamated council then getting elected MPP in a 2001 by-election.
He and Liberal Arthur Potts have been trading the lead all night, often with margins of less than 100. There's talk of requesting a judicial recount or even challenging alleged irregularities in court.
But one by one, the last polls come in, and they're big ones. Potts pulls decisively ahead, eventually taking it by 431 votes, a margin that by this point seems huge. The NDP had represented the Beaches area for 39 years.
I don't even notice that Prue had slipped out.
On the sidewalk, Councillor Davis and a woman embrace in a long, tight hug.
I ask her for comment, and she at first isn't sure. There's a tear on her cheek.
"It's very clear that we need to focus now on the municipal and federal elections to restore the progressive vote in Beaches-East York," she says tentatively. "I think Michael's defeat is a symptom of the provincial campaign that failed to address the issues of Toronto."
I'm happy with that and go back inside. But Davis, the staunch NDPer who represents the riding's north half on Council, seeks me out; she wants to be more direct.
"The MPPs in Toronto paid the price of a provincial campaign that strayed too far from the roots of this party," she says. "The progressive issues that are fundamental to the NDP: issues of inclusion, inequality. The recognition that we're a party that addresses issues that affect the marginalized and poor - I mean, where were those issues in this campaign?
"The NDP in Toronto is an urban party that addresses urban issues," she says, and Prue's defeat was "fallout" from a campaign and a platform that were absent those traditional concerns.
It means a lot coming from her, and we say goodnight.
And then, after leaving, she pops her head back one more time: "Add 'social justice' to that list as well."