Jack Layton may be the federal NDP boss, but he’s also the incumbent MP in the Toronto-Danforth riding.
Still, you wouldn’t have known as much Tuesday night, when the New Democrat leader was a no-show during a candidates’ debate at Riverdale Collegiate Institute.
The event was reportedly organized around Mr. Layton’s schedule, and his absence sparked a chorus of boos from a suddenly hostile crowd and sent his representative out the door.
Provincial MPP Peter Tabuns was on hand hoping to stand in for the federal chief, but those in the seats didn’t like the idea and when asked to vote on the matter, chose instead to show him the exit.
Calls of “Where’s Jack?” were heard from the crowd, many of whom couldn’t fathom the leader’s failure to appear before them.
“It’s just upsetting that he couldn’t represent himself and his party when there are so many people here from the community,” said area voter Sema Parwana.
“He can’t ignore his riding,” added Janice Clennett. “He needs to get that message quite clearly.”
Layton ‘s would-be opposition in the debate also cried foul.
“We don’t have access to our member of parliament,” said Liberal candidate Andrew Lang. “He’s taking this riding for granted and he’s taking the voters for granted.”
“We’d all worked very hard to find a time that we can all meet and it’s just a little unfortunate,” seconded Conservative candidate Christina Perreault.
Not surprisingly, Tabuns took issue with his dismissal.
“The organizer had accepted me standing in for Jack, and frankly given that they accepted it the fact that I’m being rejected now is quite extraordinary,” he said.
So where was the party leader?
“I understand Jack is in British Columbia organizing to make sure that we do our best to stop (Conservative leader) Stephen Harper from getting a majority (government),” Tabuns explained.
But the dozens at Riverdale Collegiate didn’t accept that excuse. Whether voters in the Toronto-Danforth riding will come Oct. 14 remains to be seen.