“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.” -Jack Layton
Funny enough I didn’t check the news or Facebook as I normally do in the morning, as If I somehow new that one of the days I had feared had come to pass: Jack Layton had lost his second round of his battle with cancer. Somewhat interestingly my own father passed at 5:55am August 23, 2008 at age 57, where as Jack crossed over at 4:45(est) August 22nd at 61.
Whether you agree with his politics, as I do, or not, People have admired Jack’s dedication to social justice, health care, the environment, and our disadvantaged citizens. Despite his father having being part of the Mulroney Conservative government, a grandfather who was a minister in Dupelessis’ Union Nationale, Jack forged his own path in municipal and federal politics. Such was his vision for Canada and force of personality, that even with a cane recovering from prostate cancer and hip surgery, hes force of will and vision for Canada captured the hearts and minds of millions of Canadians across this great country and especially in Quebec. Jack virtually single-handedly propelled the Orange Wave and over doubled our seat count. The fact that he was mere steps away from seizing the apex of any politician’s dreams, and had accomplished something deemed almost impossible by the media and most of the citizenry, makes this story even more of a tragedy than most other deaths.
Due to a communication mishap I missed my chance to see Jack live. Yet despite this thespian like media presence, Jack’s integrity, personality and care for humanity, always shone there, he seemed someone you could sit and have a beer or coffee with, a remarkable feat in politics. In fact he is the only politician I can think of who is mostly refered to by his first name. He was always first or 2nd in leadership polls, no matter where the New Democratic party was itself. As for my own ambitions I can only hope to fit half the mold Jack did. And in that final press conference as Jack looked not at all unlike my father in his last month or weeks of life, we and felt pain
No matter how expected it is, it is always difficult to lose a father, husband and friend, so to Olivia Chow, Jack’s children and friends, I say though our grief is but a fraction of your own, all Canadians, New Democrats or otherwise, stand together if you in this time of mourning and loss and send our deepest condolences.
As for the NDP, to be cliché it is always darkest before the dawn. To have such a devastating loss after finally reaching a spot of prominence is disheartening, but we must embody Jack’s optimism and fighting spirit and hold our heads high and continue our march forward. Jack has left us with a great foundation and golden opportunity. Whoever our new leader may be, Mulcair, Davies, Turmel, Julian, or someone else, may never be Jack, and his large shoes to fill, but we must support them and belief that we can finish his legacy and fulfill his dream of a New Democratic Prime Minister of Canada, with a fairer and even greater country.