It seemed fitting that Michael Ignatieff spoke before Jack Layton on Sunday. Both national leaders attended Khalsa Day celebrations in Queen’s Park for Toronto’s Sikh community and it was clear from the ovations who was the star and who was the opening act.
The applause for Ignatieff was congenial. For Layton, the cheering was loud and, midway through his speech, chants of “NDP! NDP!” rose from the front of the crowd. The scene was a microcosm of what’s happening in the national polls, where Layton’s party is surging hard and running almost neck and neck with Ignatieff’s Liberals, who are collapsing this April like the Vancouver Canucks.
Layton seemed ever-confident and fed off the energy of a crowd familiar with him and his hits: social spending, family-first initiatives, focus on healthcare. “I see a lot of orange here,” he said, noting his party’s colours matched the headwear of many of the 50,000 who came to the park in what’s become the third-largest annual parade in Toronto.
Layton was in his element; Ignatieff came across as well meaning and gracious but appeared more like a guest than a friend. If his campaign does indeed fail, its downfall will be that: He just hasn’t been involved in the community for as long or viscerally as Layton and other politicians.
Sunday’s celebrations herald the Order of Khalsa, which includes a Sikh code of conduct that dates to 1699. Ignatieff said he wanted to make sure the victims and survivors of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India were properly honoured. The killings — called a genocide by the Sikhs— occurred after the assassination of Indira Ghandi. According to some human rights groups, somewhere between 10,000 and 17,000 Sikhs were killed. Layton also made promises to a community that’s pushing to get the 1984 attacks categorized as “genocide” in Parliament. They say 100,000 people will march in Ottawa on November 1, the anniversary of the beginning of the murders in India.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was in Burnaby, B.C., on Easter Sunday. He attended Vaisakhi Day, another major Sikh celebration, in Vancouver last week.
The campaign enters its final week on Monday prior to the May 2 general election.
More 2011 Canadian Election News
Visiting Kingston to feel patriotic
Election Debate winners and losers
5 reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper
5 reasons not to vote for Michael Ignatieff
5 reasons not to vote for Jack Layton
Why I won’t vote on May 2
Thanks to Julia for the pics!