On Monday morning, I was shocked to hear that Jack Layton, leader of the NDP party of Canada, had died of prostate cancer. His own father had battled the same cancer earlier on in his own life. I remember how he has been part of Canada’s electoral debates for a long time, along with Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe, and different leaders from the Liberal Party such as Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.
From these debates, I remember Jack’s strong personality, enduring charm, and the tough questions he would ask of the other leaders. He wasn’t one to back down from a fight and say what was on his mind.
He also fought for many of the right things, although he and the party had a typical left-wing economic theory, therefore they aimed for the wrong means at arriving at their ends. The NDP’s policies, put into practice, would have seriously damaged the country and the middle class. On the other hand, I’d rather have this type of socialism instead of the type practiced by our neighbours to the south (sorry guys).
Still, even if I didn’t agree with him on these things, I still respected the way that he debated his opponents and how most debates were on civil terms (at least as far as I can remember!) , without the low-balling and dirty tactics you often see elsewhere.
He lived long enough to see his party capture the biggest victory of his lifetime: Canada’s Official Opposition and 103 seats won, with 30.3% of the popular vote.
Regular readers will know that I’m usually pretty cynical about politics. If you Google around a bit, you’ll already see the criticisms come out about how Jack was a rich socialist and other various things. Maybe much of it is true, as I’m sure similar things are true of many other politicians. Nonetheless, I can still sympathize with the pain he and the family must have gone through in the end, as my own grandfather died of cancer and I remember how tough it was for my grandmother. I also can’t argue with the final message of his last letter to Canadians:
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.
I’ll miss seeing you on TV and in the debates, Jack! May you rest in peace…