I never met former New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton.
In fact, I dismissed him during my days as a right-wing hack and Stephen Harper apologist as little more than a used car salesman and a pinko. Ignorance is bliss when ‘tis folly to be wise.
And while I am not going to go through Jack’s entire biography for the sake of time and energy (which can easily be found online, including YouTube), suffice it to say, he was, for a brief time in Canadian history, Canada’s Bernie Sanders. Or Bernie Sanders was America’s Jack Layton, before the latter succumbed to a second bout of cancer in 2011.
He represented a new wave of left-wing populist success not seen in Canadian politics since Ed Broadbent’s NDP surge in the 1980s under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He never achieved political success until it was too little too late for him. He battled prostate cancer through much of the 2011 Election campaign (for the second time) and finally passed away shortly thereafter on August 22, 2011 at the age of 61.
Jack was one of the few politicians I’ve known of who recognized the shortcomings of Canada’s banking system – which still pales in comparison to the disaster that is the Federal Reserve System – and the need for it to be reformed to serve the people over global monied interests.
He always fought for the common man over the corporation. He never believed for the second the falsehood that big business was the same as flesh and blood. He spoke out during the presidency of George W. Bush about the perils of massive corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the 1% and the destruction of both Canada’s and America’s middle class, once appearing on both CNN and the hostile environment that was and is Fox News.
The former Toronto City Councillor stayed true to his convictions to the very end, always standing up for the “Little Guy” and those without a lobby group, including the armed forces in his strong opposition to the War in Iraq, Part II, earning himself disdain from the far right of this country, who labelled him “Taliban Jack.” But he never waivered, finally becoming opposition leader too little too late after the 2011 Federal Election, a campaign of which Layton established himself as the most charismatic and popular man in Canadian politics, not unlike a Jewish carpenter and sitting senior Senator from Vermont.
In 2013, a movie was released, entitled Jack, on his life, aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television network. The movie starred former MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee as Jack’s surviving wife and fellow Member of Parliament, Olivia Chow.
Both Jack and Bernie were and are from the east coast, Jack Layton from Toronto and Bernie Sanders from New York City. They both stood for many of the same ideals, which Jack perhaps being slightly further to the Left than Bernie – he was Canadian, after all.
But it is worthwhile to note that the NDP have been in disarray and leaderless since his passing. The party has lost its soul and backbone. He will never be forgotten.
On the eve of his death, he wrote a letter of goodbye to Canadians. Here’s a brief excerpt:
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.