Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Social justice was foundation for Jack Layton's life - but tragedy followed triumph in 2011

Classic Jack Layton!  With myself in the middle and Tom Mulcair on the right,
September 28, 2007 in Vancouver.
Canadians were right. He was the real thing, committed to making their lives better

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday August 23, 2011

By Bill Tieleman 

"It's that simple. In order to have the Canada you want, you have to vote for the Canada you want."

-Jack Layton

It seems appropriate that the first day of rain in weeks of dry, sunny weather in Vancouver came at the same time we learned of Jack Layton's sad passing.

Layton's death at 61 from cancer is a personal tragedy -- but his departure as the first New Democratic Party leader of the official opposition in Canadian history is a tragedy for the whole country.

Tragedy following triumph is always the hardest to accept.

I first met Jack in Toronto in the 1980s, when he was a young city councillor. Jack immediately impressed me as he did everyone on first meeting -- with his incredible energy.

It was seemingly boundless, limitless and harnessed for his fundamental cause -- social justice.

That never changed.

Layton fought unfairness throughout his entire career.

The issues were many and varied: homelessness, discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, violence against women, poverty, union rights, the environment, Canadian sovereignty and unity.

And that was by his own choice.

The son of former federal Conservative cabinet minister Robert Layton, Jack could have chosen a different, easier life, but his commitment to bringing change to Canada on so many important issues demanded a career in social democratic politics.

This year's election saw Jack at the very top of his game -- connecting seemingly effortlessly with ordinary Canadians and their concerns.

But that ability was developed through 30 years of political activism, knocking on doors, attending meetings in church basements and union halls, listening to people's hopes and fears, responding to their concerns with a plan of action.

A toast to Jack

Jack was a professor of political science before becoming a politician but never came across as an academic.

Layton's constant personal popularity rating in polls showed that he was the leader Canadians would most want to have a drink with in the pub.

I've had that drink with Jack Layton a few times and Canadians were right -- he was the real thing -- a politician who cared more than anything else about the people who elected him to represent them.

Nothing speaks more to his dedication and commitment to democracy than that.

Cancer claimed Jack Layton's life but never his spirit.



Don McBain said...

Wow! I have been folling all the article on Jack today. Your's sums it the best.

I wish I had that chance to have a beer with him.

Don McBain

Don McBain said...

Wow, you had a beer with Jack Layton. To late for me now.

Anonymous said...


DPL said...

Jack Layton was a man of the people. He shall be remembered as the guy who cared about people. RIP Jack

Blake MacLeod said...

...and go easily to the great beyond knowing that we'll carry the torch, and a new leader will emerge to continue this work with strength, courage, and conviction; all those things we admire most in you Jack, but really, it is in all of us.

Norm Farrell said...

He seemed like an ordinary guy although he was not. He had unwavering commitment to human rights and fair treatment for all. Some of us may repeat the words but he proved his dedication through action.

May Layton's death remind us of the many honourable people who shared parliamentary benches with Jack, on both sides of the House.

Anonymous said...

Jack was one of the very few politicians that I would listen to on TV. Most of them just ramble on and on trying to have it every which way. Jack was upfront and always dripping with integrity. Compare that to Harper or Campbell. We lost one of the good guys and the whole country is the poorer for it. Thanks Jack.

Anonymous said...

Jack was Canada. I can't think one, without the other.

Jack was our hope to keep Canada sovereign. He loved this country, and his people came first.

I am now terrified for this country. The rot is really becoming more visible everyday.

I am in disbelief, a Canadian P.M. would send scum like Campbell to England, as High Commissioner. Canada is being fouled and dirtied. We were once, a country welcomed around the world. Now our country is an abyss of corruption, and I feel shamed. This is no longer my country. I don't recognize, my own country anymore.

Jack would have fought against our country being shamed. The people being treated like dirt, and our government thieving from us.

Jack was very much against Harper, giving giant corporations, billions of our tax dollars. Harper thieves from us, to give to the wealthiest outfits in the world. Jack thought that wrong, and he was absolutely right.

I met Jack twice, through the years. He was totally loyal to this country and his people, all those many years ago. His dedication never wavered.

Canada would have been safe with Jack.

However, Frankenstein is in charge, and we can kiss this country good-bye.

I am so sorry for Olivia and the family. Jack will be terribly missed.

Anonymous said...

"I am now terrified for this country. The rot is really becoming more visible everyday. "

If this is true, then you really need to look in the mirror.

"However, Frankenstein is in charge, and we can kiss this country good-bye."

Where were you during the last election? Did you help our NDP candidate in your riding? or, did you help our party?

Gerry McGuire said...

Jack Layton at Library Square in Vancouver, Friday June 17, 2011-almost to the day when he noticed new symptoms.