On Jack Layton

 Like a lot of Canadians, I was saddened by the death of Jack Layton. While I held out hope for recovery, I knew well enough to be realistic about his chances in the long term.

Shortly before I moved to Montreal, I made the decision that instead of reading about politics and getting steamed over it, I would join a political party and take part in it. So, as they were the party who’s policies most closely (but not entirely) aligned with my beliefs, I joined the NDP in time for the leadership convention. Specifically, I joined the NDP to vote for Jack Layton as its leader. If the party was going to make any kind of gains, I figured it needed to embrace a leader with a big personality who would get the party in the news every day. My Toronto friends, while supporters of the NDP, were a little more cautious of Layton, knowing his track record as a city councilor and penchant for self-promotion.

I was overly optimistic in my prediction that they would form the official opposition in the election that followed. Of course, it wasn’t until this previous election that they go the kind of numbers I thought they’d get seven years ago, although they did it in a way few would have predicted with a majority of seats from Quebec, featuring rookie MPs who didn’t even live in, or visit their ridings.

Prior to this year’s election, I thought this would be Layton’s last. I thought that if the results ended up being a re-run of the 2008 results, and his health kept dragging him down, he would decide that he’d had done enough and step down. But at one point early in the campaign, he sprang to life and ended the contest with the keys to Stornoway. He’s not going anywhere, I thought.

And then, just as he prepared to lead the Opposition in what I thought was going to be an interesting four years in the House of Commons, we learned it was not to be.

So now he’s gone and it seems the consensus in some papers is that the NDP has big shoes to fill and that it will never again enjoy the kind of success it did under his leadership. I’m not sure I agree in that political predictions are, at best, guesses and we just don’t know what the next four years will bring. While a leader can inspire someone to get involved with the cause, they should never be the cause itself. While I don’t see popular support swirling around Nycole Turmel the way it did with Jack Layton, I wonder if, rather than his death weakening the party, it strengthens it as more people take up the cause in his memory.

I guess that might explain why, all day yesterday, I kept thinking, “I should join the party again…”

Edited to add: Hey NDP guys, you know I only did this out of love, right?

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