The year 1993 was an important one for yours truly and the country. Not only was it my first full year working as a reporter for a newspaper (make that two papers, one in Ontario and one in B.C.), it was a year of other firsts.
And no I am not referring to THAT first.
At 24, it was the first time I voted in a federal election (I had missed voting in the 1988 election when I was 19 as I was travelling at the time).
In October, 1992, I had moved to B.C. from my hometown of Toronto and started the new year with a short-lived job in Revelstoke before settling in Victoria.
Far from the “newly-wed, nearly dead” moniker that was tagged to the B.C. capital at the time, I was surrounded by many free thinkers of all walks of life. We would often find ourselves at the neighbourhood pub, slinging back ales while discussing the politics of the day.
There was lots to talk about.
The Progressive Conservatives, under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, had already had two terms in office. The GST was a reality. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had been signed the year before. Our armed forces were on a peace keeping mission in Somalia that turned ugly when two of our soldiers were accused of the brutal beating to death of a civilian teenager in the African nation.
And our country, along with the rest of the world, was still in the throes of a devastating recession.
Mulroney was feeling the strain.
With the federal election on the horizon, he didn’t wait to count his chickens, and stepped down as leader, paving the way for Canada’s first female Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who took on the role in the interim.
It was a thankless task.
A few months later, I, along with the rest of the country headed to the polls – two days after celebrating the Toronto Blue Jays’ second, and last, win of the World Series (fingers crossed for this year!).
The Oct. 25, 1993 election results were devastating for the Tories. It was if a red sea enveloped the country – at least the central part of our country thanks to our electoral system of non-proportional representation.
After the last count on that fateful day, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals won 177 seats, mostly in Ontario. The Bloc Québécois, under Lucien Bouchard, and Preston Manning’s Reform Party shared 109 seats between them – mostly in Québec and the western provinces, respectively. And the Conservatives were left with a paltry two seats from the 156 they held before the election. (The NDP didn’t fare much better losing 35 ridings to earn only nine.)
To be honest, I don’t even remember who I voted for. All I know is that change was wanted and it prevailed. That’s how democracy works.
The following years under the Liberal government would prove to have highs and lows, as is life in the roller coaster world of politics.
The recession did eventually lift as would our federal deficit, but we still had the GST (an election promise broken).
A tennis match between Canada and the U.S. would ensue over NAFTA. Canada would lose on set points, mostly on the agreement about softwood lumber.
The 1995 Québec sovereignty referendum would be defeated, keeping our country together.
By the end of his tenure 10 years later, Chrétien and his party would be swept away by the sponsorship scandal. We would ride on the Liberal Ferris wheel for a while with Paul Martin, but by 2006, a new leader by the name of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives would rise again – and again and again.
It will be interesting to see if 1993 repeats. I’m doubtful. But if these past 22 years have taught me anything, it’s that politics are never boring, and oh, your vote counts no matter what.