Jack Layton (1950-2011)

(image from ctv.ca)

Some thoughts swirling in my head regarding the recent passing of NDP leader and leader of the Loyal Opposition Jack Layton that I wish to comment here.

It's no secret to zaakistan.com followers that I tend to the left on both the economic spectrum and the libertarian spectrum, therefore I listened carefully to what this socialist Canadian voice had to say. In general, I liked Jack Layton's ideas, but even more, his passion and commitment to engaging people with these ideas is what made him a more interesting political figure. Note that he didn't hit people over the head with the ideas, he simply wanted people to understand what the proposed ideas were so they could make informed decisions. He drew direct lines between policy and actual life. I liked that. I'll miss him.

Layton's political career did not start in the private sector where he amassed a fortune or business cred (like Paul Martin or Stephen Harper). He began in academia, then moved into urban improvement policy on the Toronto city council, then as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and finally into the federal government. He rode his bicycle to work (which is what most impressed Amber). He loved cities and wanted to see Canadian cities become great, but not at the expense of those most vulnerable (homeless, low income earners, the environment, families, etc.). Music was a big part of his identity and how he connected with people. He was a regular man struggling with the political juggernaut.

I was in Montreal when the news came through the airwaves that Jack Layton had passed away. It had been almost a month since he was last seen in the media announcing his temporary absence from Parliament because he was facing cancer once again and wished time to focus on recovery. It was apparent to most people watching that press conference that Jack wasn't coming back - he looked like a spectre.

That evening, I went to a pub with a good friend to catch up. Monday nights at Ye Olde Orchard patrons enjoy Larissa's Pub Quiz. Larissa was particularly affected by the passing of Mr. Layton and so she themed the quiz around Jack Layton and the NDP (categories like Orange, Jacks, Jack Layton, etc.). Before the quiz began the waiters took up a collection for the food bank (a couple hundred dollars) and we all raised our glasses to Jack - a politician who regularly raised a glass in pubs.

Having lived in either Alberta or Guatemala during Jack Layton's leadership of the NDP, I was not aware of his popularity as it existed in central and eastern Canada until the week following his death. I was genuinely surprised at the outpouring of admiration and sorrow presented each day on the news and later at his funeral.

From his letter to Canadians, written days before his death:
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton


Debby said...

as I was reading this blog ...and Jack Layton's letter...the lyrics to one of Joni Mitchell's songs came to my mind ' Oh you know it seems to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone'
It's been a while since I was affected by the death of a politician but I cried and paid my respects watching the service on tv. It made me pay more attention to what he had been doing all these years.
Thanks for the blog, Zaak

Zaak said...

Thanks for reading ma! It is too bad we didn't pay more attention to him.