Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Canada's Loss

We lost one of our great political figures this week. Canada’s loss. Toronto’s loss.

Jack Layton was the leader of the N.D.P. (New Democratic Party) and for the first time in the party’s history, he was the official leader of the opposition. His death at 61 leaves a huge gap in our governing body. But it is the loss of the human being that is the real blow. Jack fought all his life for the underdog, the voice not heard, the discarded, the despised, and the forgotten. He brought balls and character to a very bland political landscape, which is the current state of Canadian politics.

Jack was a huge supporter of the arts in every form and came out to show that support time and time again. We have read and heard so many people say that even if you did not agree with his politics you had to love Jack. He was a “money where the mouth” is guy at a time when so many are “foot where the mouth is” guys. The following is a letter that he crafted with his wife Olivia Chow and his closest party confidants two days before his death. We have taken the liberty of editing the letter to give you a taste of Jack Layton.

Dear Friends,
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better…. I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

Consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,
Jack Layton

One of our favourite comments among the thousands these last few days appeared in the editorial in the Globe and Mail. It said, “He ennobled politics”. Yes. He did.

The following is an endearingly personal clip from the endearingly funny Rick Mercer Report. Enjoy. 


  1. Yes Jack was a rare person; a politician that I actually respected. Although much of the US 'mainstream media' ignored his passing, a number of gay US blogs did mention it. He was one of the first politicians to embrace the LGBT community- Jack embraced everyone who struggled to make Toronto, then Canada, an even better place.

    I posted the picture I took of Jack at 2008 Pride on my blog, along with my own thoughts as to why he will be missed.

  2. Your blog picture is great and so were your comments. Yes that is our fear, that no one can replace him. But as he said, hope is better than fear.

  3. I am not from Canada but this is a very lovely tribute. He sounded like a wonderful person!

  4. I was really pulling for Jack Layton, and was thrilled when he and his team pulled off what they did during the election. His passing is very sad. He was "the real thing" in politics, the kind of person who made you believe politicians aren't all in it for the pension and perks.

  5. Kate you are so right. He was the real deal. So very sad. He was a rare bird in politics.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this wonderful tribute to Jack. He was an incredible man who fought for human rights. I and Canada will miss him.

  7. I knew nothing of Jack but I like that you featured him. He seems like an all around good guy.

  8. Laurie I am so glad it meant something to you. We will all miss him, yes.

  9. So sorry for canada's loss. My heart Out to his family and to Canada.

  10. Reading this letter, I would never have guessed this man was in politics. Based on what has happened in the US govt over the past couple of months, it is difficult to imagine our politicians as anything but.
    (Photos and new reels of Obama shopping on a very exclusive MA island does nothing to change that image.)
    It was wonderful to be able to read Jack's letter, to understand this man, as opposed to this politician. Heck, that everyone knew him as "Jack" displays the respect he received. You were very fortunate to have him involved in so much life during his lifetime. My condolences to all Canadians.


  11. This is a beautiful post and tribute to a man who was taken far too soon. He accomplished so much for Canada and will be hugely missed. It is astonishing that he wrote that letter so close to his death. It shows just what a big heart he really had!

  12. Dawn thank you for your thoughtful comments. He never did lose the man in his work and that says something doesn't it? Frankly modern politics no matter how great your passion for helping people is so very unappealing. Mary-Jo, one of our local journalists wrote a scathing and horrible letter after Jack's death implying, among other things that the letter shows that he was just an ambitious man who thought of nothing but politics right to the end. She didn't get it clearly.

  13. I didn't know who he was but after watching the video interview I could tell he was a lovely human being, very warm and very real. A great loss indeed.
    Great big hug,

  14. I saw that article, and clearly, she didn't get it!!!!!

  15. He really did "ennoble politics". Thank you for this wonderful tribute. I wrote about him as well...couldn't seem to help it. I will miss him.

  16. He was certainly a unique find in todays political landscape. His last words to the public show just how much he believed in Canada and the good we as a nation can accomplish.

    I loved the interview as I've always thought a politicians reaction to Rick Mercer or a 22 minutes character tells you alot about what type of person they truly are. Each time I've seen Jack Layton he seemed to be an honest, comfortable person and a good man.

    He will be missed.

    Erin B

  17. Thanks Marion. We certainly will miss him. I agree Erin. Watching them interact and seeing how good their sense of humour is, is key to the human. Plus I loved watching him talking in Chinese to his Mum in law didn't you?

  18. It's heartbreaking. I feel privileged to have worked as a member of Jack's team for the past three years. He'll be missed.

  19. You must be profoundly sad and proud right now. I'm sorry for your personal loss.

  20. I have read nothing but good about this man from all my Canadian blog buddies. I am so sorry for his lose for his friends and family and for Canada.

    Pamela Jo

  21. I have seen so many great tributes for this great man. We can only hope that his words will live on.

  22. Thanks Pamela Jo so much, from all your Canadian blog buddies. I like that name!
    Erica, I think his words will live on. He has already changed many many things by his death.


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