Independent
journalism that swims
against the current.
Opinion
Politics

Jack Layton: Triumph and Tragedy

Canadians were right. He was the real thing, committed to making their lives better.

Bill Tieleman 23 Aug 2011TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

"It's that simple. In order to have the Canada you want, you have to vote for the Canada you want." -- Jack Layton

It seems appropriate that the first day of rain in weeks of dry, sunny weather in Vancouver came at the same time we learned of Jack Layton's sad passing.

Layton's death at 61 from cancer is a personal tragedy -- but his departure as the first New Democratic Party leader of the official opposition in Canadian history is a tragedy for the whole country.

Tragedy following triumph is always the hardest to accept.

I first met Jack in Toronto in the 1980s, when he was a young city councillor. Jack immediately impressed me as he did everyone on first meeting -- with his incredible energy.

It was seemingly boundless, limitless and harnessed for his fundamental cause -- social justice.

That never changed.

Layton fought unfairness throughout his entire career. The issues were many and varied: homelessness, discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, violence against women, poverty, union rights, the environment, Canadian sovereignty and unity.

And that was by his own choice. The son of former federal Conservative cabinet minister Robert Layton, Jack could have chosen a different, easier life, but his commitment to bringing change to Canada on so many important issues demanded a career in social democratic politics.

This year's election saw Jack at the very top of his game -- connecting seemingly effortlessly with ordinary Canadians and their concerns.

But that ability was developed through 30 years of political activism, knocking on doors, attending meetings in church basements and union halls, listening to people's hopes and fears, responding to their concerns with a plan of action.

A toast to Jack

Jack was a professor of political science before becoming a politician but never came across as an academic.

Layton's constant personal popularity rating in polls showed that he was the leader Canadians would most want to have a drink with in the pub.

I've had that drink with Jack Layton a few times and Canadians were right -- he was the real thing -- a politician who cared more than anything else about the people who elected him to represent them.

Nothing speaks more to his dedication and commitment to democracy than that.

Cancer claimed Jack Layton's life but never his spirit.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.

Do:

  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

What Environmental Impacts Are Most Concerning to You This Summer?

Take this week's poll