Monday, August 22, 2011

Goodbye, Jack

Anyone who saw Jack Layton’s final public press conference, where the energizer bunny of Canadian politics looked so frail and weak, knew he was in the fight of his life. Over his long career though, many had learned the perils of betting against Jack. He’s a fighter, and he was a fighter to the end.

Perhaps that’s why the news of his passing from cancer early this morning was so stunning. It’s just hard to imagine Ottawa, and political debate, without Jack. The NDP has had some larger than life figures -- Tommy Douglas, Ed Broadbent – but they were before my time. I remember Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough but for me, and more many, Jack Layton is the NDP. The happy warrior whose ever-present smile and trademark moustache belied a tireless determination to build a better Canada.

Politics can be a rough and tumble business. And make no mistake; Jack played the game as hard as anyone. But there’s also a collegiality that crosses party lines. A recognition that, despite our differences on this issue or that issue, we’re all united by a love of Canada and a desire to see it be the best it can be for all its people. And Jack typified that higher calling.

Some people like to talk about enemies in politics. I don’t like that kind of talk, and I don’t think Jack did either. Certainly, Jack wasn’t my enemy. I have nothing but respect for anyone who makes the sacrifice of public service, with all the slings and arrows that come with that commitment. And while we may have disagreed on points of policy, there’s no doubt Jack was fighting for all the right reasons. He elevated the debate, and spurred all around him to do the same.

And no matter your political learning, it was hard not to cheer Jack on this spring as, still recovering from his battle with prostate cancer, he tirelessly barnstormed across the country in an election campaign that brought his party to its greatest electoral success, and the cusp of something few would ever have thought possible before: governing Canada. His courage was inspiring to all Canadians.

It’s heart-breaking to see Jack leave us on the heels of his greatest success, with so much promise left unfulfilled. We’ll always wonder what might have been. It’s certainly too early at this juncture to consider what his legacy will be, or what the future will hold. I hope, though, that if Jack leaves us with one lesson, it’s this: you don’t need to dirty yourself in the mud to be successful. A positive vision and hard work will be rewarded.

Jack, you left us too soon. But we’re better for the time you shared with us.

Thank-you, Jack.

UPDATE: A touching final letter from Jack to Canadians (PDF).

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Nalliah said...

It is a sad day for Canada.. Jack Layton was a believer in Canada. Jack Layton's absence from the political table will be a profound loss.
- Nalliah Thayabharan

Rick Barnes said...

Thanks. Posts like this are why I feel I have so many friends in the Liberal Party. We can share, be tough on each other but in the end we respect those who aspire for a better Canada, a better world.