EDITORIAL: Remembering Jack Layton
The sleeves of his crisp, white shirt rolled up, Jack Layton’s pit stop in Port Moody on the 2004 campaign trail was like the man himself: short, energetic and focused.
Telling reporters it was time for a change in the then-Liberal government, Layton enumerated several Tri-City issues and offered solutions for them all: a greater share of the gas tax, more public transit, and affordable housing to prevent homelessness. Issues still relevant today.
Even then, before his trademark cane and vision of hope and optimism propelled his party to an unprecedented role as Official Opposition, it was easy to see that Layton had the right stuff to appeal to Canadians.
Layton, who died Monday morning of cancer, wanted Canadians to live up to their potential. That’s not an uncommon vision among politicians. Regardless of what party they represent, Canadian politicians do agree on one thing — they want a better world for their children and grandchildren. Where they differ is in how to achieve this lofty goal.
But with Layton it was different. He was a member of the political elite, (his great grand-uncle was a Father of Confederation and his father a Tory cabinet minister in the Brian Mulroney government) and he was also a PhD scholar and a writer, but Canadians didn’t fault him for it.
He chose to lead an aging party with flagging fortunes, taking over the NDP when it was at its lowest point in many years. But instead of finishing his years in the political hinterland, as many predicted, he survived and thrived, overcoming both political and physical hardships along the way.
Indeed, it was Layton’s public battle against prostate cancer which earned him the respect of many and when he showed up on the campaign trail with a cane and a dogged determination to fight on despite his frailties, even the usually cynical political pundits were forced to take notice. When his campaign bus became a rolling orange wave through Quebec, they were forced to reverse their predictions about Layton’s underdog party.
Where his story becomes even more compelling is in its abrupt ending. Although Layton would wish otherwise, there is a sadness in the understanding that death is final. Only in making the most out of each day can the living still hope to make the world a better place.