Monday, 22 August 2011

Jack Layton dies of cancer. Ottawa will be more drab for his passing.

Jack Layton: always a thumbs up for Canada.

Jack Layton 1950-2011: Canada grieves.
by Tom Thorne
The news of Jack Layton's death this morning from an undisclosed cancer was  announced in all Canadian media. News channels went immediately to special programming. Facebook and Twitter lit up and the NDP website was swamped with  condolences and memories of this great Canadian. A few weeks ago when Jack announced his turnover of the New Democratic Party (NDP) leadership temporarily to Nycole Turmel we all wished him well in his new battle with cancer. 
It was obvious at that news conference that it would be a tough battle. Jack's gaunt face and weak voice were an immediate shock that went unspoken by many commentators. What a difference from the energized Jack on the federal election campaign trail. Everyone wanted Jack to recover. Everyone of all political stripes wished him well and no one would say what was obvious. Jack Layton is a fighter, a tenacious fighter. We all hoped against hope.
Jack Layton's political career has been one continual fight from the start. From Toronto City Council, to two failed attempts to become the mayor of Toronto,
to two failed attempts to get a federal seat in parliament so it was a major surprise to see the seatless Layton win the NDP federal  leadership on the first ballot. The endorsement of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent at that convention was the right decision for the NDP
Jack went on to build the NDP's from third party status to finally in the last election to the Official Opposition with 103 seats. Sadly, Jack will never get to serve as the Leader of the Opposition or in the future make a serious bid against the Harper government to become Prime Minister of Canada. That would have been an interesting encounter.
His legacy however is strong. For years the NDP really could only hope for power. Jack has placed them on the cusp.  Strangely, the death of Jack Layton may serve to galvanize the more progressive politics of this country into a major force to battle the right wing agenda of the Harper conservatives. 
Will the merger of the Liberals and NDP emerge from this sad event? It is too early to say,  but Jack's memory would be better served if there was a much more powerful centre-left party in the country that could form a government. Jack Layton was clearly for families, working people and the homeless.
His feisty campaigning style won the hearts of Canadians who hold liberal and left viewpoints but he also managed to get the respect of many people who are on the right of centre. His charisma rolled up Quebec in the last election. His career is cut short but his memory in the politics of this country will run much deeper because his commitment to ordinary Canadians was his legacy to us all.
Lastly my condolences to Jack's wife Olivia Chan and all the Layton family. Jack will be missed.
© Copyright, 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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