Love, hope and optimism. In his passing, with these three words, Jack Layton has permanently marked the political landscape in Canada.
The public outpouring of grief and sympathy for the Layton family has crossed partisan lines and been felt from coast to coast to coast. That respect and sense of loss is a result of a man practicing his craft in a genuine way, wading into crowds of people yearning to hear the stories, the hopes, the aspirations of a nation.
Born in Quebec, fluently bilingual, Jack became NDP leader in 2003. I did not support him at that time, preferring the western candidate, long time Winnipeg MP Bill Blaikie. At the time I viewed Jack as a Toronto centred politician that had no experience in the House of Commons or in the many and varied parts of Canada.
Looking back on the extraordinary success of the Jack-led NDP I was clearly wrong. Over four elections he increased the number of seats held by the NDP from just 13 in 2000, to 103 this past May. But it is not the electoral success that will remain with me in my heart when I think about Jack. It will be his relentless optimism and his real affection for politics and people.
One personal experience: It was at a rally here in Victoria during the 2008 campaign. I was asked to MC a high tech town hall at Pearkes Arena. The team was anxious to get the program finished on time so the bus could be at the next stop. After an hour I thanked the last questioner and asked Jack to wrap up. His response was to take three more questions. With much frustration, the staffers finally got Jack out of the building and within a stone’s throw of the bus. But not past the senior couple, wife in wheelchair, that wanted just a word with Jack.
After 15 minutes he hugged them both, hopped up the stairs of the bus and was gone. Gone to find more people to connect with, not for a minute, but for a lifetime. For me, that is what politics should be all about. People making a connection to create better understanding and to change the world. Goodbye Jack. You will be missed.
John Horgan, MLA Juan de Fuca firstname.lastname@example.org
Today Canada has lost a great Canadian, a great New Democrat, and a man who would have been a fine Prime Minister. To me Jack was not only a source of inspiration with his boundless optimism and his sure sense of what was best for Canada, he was also a mentor and most of all a personal friend.
Jack believed in a Canada where no one is left behind and his courage will inspire all Canadians to build the Canada which we all know is possible.
I believe Jack will be remembered as a man who took not just New Democrats, but all Canadians a great step forward in that direction. As leader of the New Democratic Party Jack built a movement which will carry on his work and won’t stop until the job is done. Jack will be missed but not forgotten as we move on toward a brighter future for all Canadians
Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca