Jack Layton 1950-2011


Three and a half months ago Jack Layton led the NDP to become the Leader of the Official Opposition, something that had eluded all of his predecessors, as well as all of his predecessors’ predecessors in the old CCF.

There are others who can speak more knowledgeably about his accomplishments and legacy, but two recent events stand out. The first is that he survived a last ditch smear by Conservative house organ the Toronto Sun a couple of days before the election. Unlike Michael Ignatieff, who was gored by years of Conservative slander, Layton was already well-known and respected by voters and he walked away without a scratch. It is a good measure of the trust and credibility he had earned through many years of public service.

The other was unexpected and came as a pleasant surprise. On Friday I happened to catch the CTV News report on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s testimony before the House finance committee. Flaherty delivered up talking points mush: the government of Canada is committed to lowering the deficit despite the need for government spending to create jobs and security because, well, just look at Europe, they have deficits too and they’re in big trouble. I know I looked for the remote at that point because the analogy is ridiculous, like comparing beavers and boulliabasse. However, the report also included a clip that, if you’d blinked, you’d’ve missed it: a young newly-elected NDP MP on the committee, when his turn came, responded to Flaherty, “Canada is not Europe, and the minister knows that.” The expression on Flaherty’s face made it clear that he isn’t used to being addressed that way.

It may be that a large part of Layton’s legacy is the unprecedented election of so many young members of parliament. They represent the generation that will have to clean up after people like Flaherty finally leave town. It’s very reassuring to know that some of them already have a jump on the situation, and we can thank Jack Layton for that.

From the letter written on his deathbed on Saturday:

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *