Monday, August 22, 2011

Good Bye, Jack, Thanks For Everything by Alex Snider

Oh wow, sad news this morning: Jack Layton, leader of the Canadian New Democratic Party (the historically third tier lefty party that brought us such things as Universal Heath Care) succumbed to cancer this morning, only just two and a half months after an incredible, underdog (like, Mighty Ducks underdog) win over the Liberal party for the official opposition against the Conservative party and the lead cyborg, Stephen Harper. I cannot stress enough how amazing it was that the NDP, under Jack, and really, because of Jack given his integrity as a leader and a human being -- wow, this is such a staggering loss for Canada -- leapt from fourth place to second Federally, when few thought it possible. 

Jack was a man of the people, cliche though it may sound. He had money, obviously (where would a poli be without it?), but he fought for the little guy, he showed up and not just on the election trail for the cameras. I remember my first trip to Toronto for Christmas, seven years ago, when I went to the winter Solstice festival in Kensington Market. There is this huge parade, with fire-eaters and giant puppets and drumming and thousands of people, that winds it's way through the streets, culminating with a huge bonfire where everyone just kind of dances around it all Pagan-y. I was there watching it all, already working the logistics of abandoning ship in Winnipeg to move to TO when I saw Jack and his wife Olivia dancing around the fire in these silly I want to say goose costumes, having a ball. Torontonians, and I imagine Ottawanians (?), have all kinds of stories about Jack like that -- living, loving life. 

The goofiness and joie de vivre belies the passion and drive that was evident whenever Jack was interviewed or involved in a debate. Just this last election during the English debate he was given (sometimes grudgingly be hardcore Liberals and Conservatives) top score for his performance which had all the elements of preparedness, enthusiasm, knowledge and comfort. He believes in what he says, and he fights for what he believes. You can't fake that. 

Jack wasn't a perfect politician, there were always going to have to be compromises and deals but Jack has been one of the only ones who always remembers that there are more Canadians than the wealthy, 2.5 child family. He fought for women's rights and for the homeless. He fought for old-age security and pensions and medicare. He fought for the environment and for students. He fought for LGBTQI rights and new Canadians. And, he certainly wasn't perfect when it came to Aboriginal rights but he was instrumental in securing an apology from the government to the survivors of residential schools. I can only imagine what more he could have accomplished as the leader of the opposition had he been able to enjoy his well-earned term. 

Today our hearts are heavy for his wife and children, for his party, for Canada who's political fabric is less lush than it was yesterday. We are going to miss you like crazy, Jack. 

I leave you with his last public quote:
“As I am hopeful and optimistic about all of this, I have to say I am as optimistic as when I started out my life in politics. And so I’m hopeful and optimistic about the personal battle that lies before me in the weeks to come,” Layton said. “I am very hopeful and optimistic that our party will continue to move forward, that we will replace the Conservative government in a few short years from now and that we will work with Canadians to build the country of our hopes, of our dreams, of our optimism, our determination, our values and our love. Thank you very much.”

1 comment:

  1. Huffington Post Canada published the letter that Jack wrote to Canadians in the event of his death, seriously check it out:

    Hard to read but inspiring none the less. Died like he lived.