Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Farewell Jack


It seems strange to think it was only a few months ago we were all watching Jack Layton give one of the greatest campaign performances in Canadian history. Yesterday morning he passed away, a harsh reminder that cancer can strike anyone, any time.

Although he had a long and accomplished career, that final campaign will be what Layton is best remembered for, and what most of today's tributes will focus on. There aren't a lot of politicians around these days who genuinely connect with voters, but Layton did just that, every step of the way. He told Canadians how he'd improve their lives and did it with a smile. Voters responded and the results were nothing short of historic.

Making it all the more impressive were the health challenges facing him. A year earlier, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A month earlier, he was barely able to stand for more than a minute without breaking into a sweat. Yet there he was, cool and composed, looking more at ease than any of the other leaders. It was like the Curt Schilling bloody sock game - an athlete overcoming it all when the chips were done. The only difference - Jack did it for 39 straight days.

And while Layton will be remembered most for the 2011 campaign, where he will be missed most is in the day-to-day life of federal politics. He has been a fixture in Parliament since 2003, a period during which the Liberals burned through 6 leaders. Through confidence crisis, coalition crisis, and elections, Jack was always involved, the one mustached constant. It will be impossible to write about the rise of Stephen Harper, the fall of the Liberals, or the destruction of the Bloc without mentioning Jack. And through the political chaos, he did manage to wrestle out a few "results for people" along the way.

Although I've been critical of Layton at times, I respected his determination and never once doubted his sincerity. This spring, he not only made history - he made a generation of Canadians give a damn about politics. In this day age, that's a much greater and much more meaningful accomplishment than 103 seats.

Canadian politics are worse off without Jack.

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