Youth-run and grassroots oriented, the campaign office for Susan Wallace at Toronto Centre looked a little different from other NDP campaigns in due to the number and diversity of working class youth involved. Susanne Wallace was a long-shot against incumbent Bob Rae. The Wikipedia page for Toronto Centre still calls it "one of the safest Liberal ridings in Canada." Not anymore. Rae hung onto his seat, but barely. Susan Wallace was certainly correct when she said, "We have the most grassroots youth activist campaign that we have ever seen." The NDP largely focused the campaign on other ridings. As Wallace said to her team later that night: "We didn't have two nickels to rub together. The party was sending resources over there and over there- what we did here, we did it ourselves".
The campaign managers were Solomon Muyoboke (23) and Farshad Azadian (22), both leading figures in the Esplanade Community Group as well as the Toronto Young New Democrats. They organized teams of volunteers on a grassroots basis to campaign, with an emphasis on the downtown east side: Regent Park, the Esplanade, Sherbourne and St. Jamestown. Farshad told the media co-op:
"It was probably one of the most racially diverse of any activist group in Canada. This is one of the most ethnically diverse regions of Toronto, an area with some of the highest numbers of immigrants and non-status people, and we realize that we have to come together on the issues that affect us. And we realize that these issues are mixed with the issue of class and how capitalism destroys our neighborhoods and our livelihoods for the sake of profit, and we have to unite on a class basis to fight back."
George, a campaign volunteer, became active as a worker in the USW 9537 strike. When asked how that related to his NDP work, he told the media co-op: "The union involved standing together for the working class, and the same values that you have in unions you have in the NDP. The unions can't survive without the NDP. We have to stand together in solidarity."
With a difference of only 6011 votes (as of 4:39 PM on Tuesday), the vote count was even closer throughout the night as CBC reported live on results. Bob Rae gained 40% of the vote where Wallace was at 30%. This represents a huge gain for the NDP; in the last federal election the NDP only gained 15% of the vote.
Farshad defended his choice to work, as a radical class-struggle activist, within the NDP and pointed to gains from the campaign:
"Our NDP campaign was more radical than anything else that other activist groups do. They don't talk about issues that we talk about. Many so-called radicals are so liberal compared to what we ran on. You can say the NDP is social democratic, but we ran on a socialist campaign, and our votes went ridiculous. Compared to the last federal election we over doubled our percentage. And we had over 100 people mobilized for the campaign. And all on the back of youth, mostly youth from the different hoods in the downtown eastside. That's the definition of grassroots."
Solomon is no less dedicated to future organizing. "It's bittersweet," he said at the election party, adding that he hadn't slept in 30 hours. "We had some fun, we learned a lot, but there is still a lot of organizing to do."