Today Canada lost one of the least smarmy politicians, Jack Layton.
This is an especially difficult loss for many young NDP’ers like myself. Jack was my first federal NDP leader. Jack was the one to convince me that 1) politics are transformative and important 2) I need to pay attention and 3) be grateful that I live in a country I can vote without fear. Jack was the one to help me decide that I would be orange. Jack was the one to help me understand that politics didn’t have to be corrupt.
Now that I’m entering my thirities I don’t quite know what to do now, along with other young-ish NDP’ers. We no longer have the strong, steadfast voice of Jack talking about the importance of shelters, safety for women and children, de-militarization, and taxes.
May 2011 was probably one of the most exciting federal elections I’ve seen. It was bitter-sweet, but it did see Jack take his team all the way to Stornoway. Unfortunately Jack isn’t going to be able to take up residence and show us a different kind of official opposition. One full of compassion, excitement and change.
That being said Jack has left us with something else: hope. No matter what was going on Jack Layton had an ability to remind us all of the strength that Canadians had, and in our ability to perservere and support one another.
I had the good chance to see Jack Layton in person at Toronto Pride a few years ago. Actually, anytime I’ve been to Pride, Jack’s been there. I saw him at the NDP tent/booth (you know where they have all the literature and pamphlets). I had to do a double take, but when I did, there was Jack. Standing at the tiny booth with two folding chairs and wearing a bright pink shirt. He was just hanging out, talking to those who stopped and chose to talk to him. I was too freaked out to stop. So we went on our merry way. A few hours later we walked by the NDP tent again. Jack was still there. He was engaged in a conversation with a few people. I was still too nervous to talk to him (yes, I’m a giant nerd). All I could do was yell, “I LOVE YOU JACK!”.
To which he smiled, and waved.