Adversity becomes Jack.

Jack Layton has always been a strong opponent.  It was 26 years ago when we first seriously campaigned against him in downtown Toronto.  At the time, the City of Toronto councillor was managing the provincial campaign in Fort York Riding for the NDP.  He is one heck of a scrapper.  Our Liberal beat his candidate in that election but he came back stronger the next time.  That area now is a big part of his wife, Olivia Chow’s, federal electoral district of Trinity-Spadina.

We were probably as surprised as he was when he easily won the leadership of the federal NDP in 2003.  He had come a long way from his roots in Montreal.  Mind you, it was his facility with Quebec French from those roots that made him a natural for the NDP leadership.

Jack performed well in his national role.  That tenacity of his paid off with increases in seats in 2005, 2006 and 2008.  He initially supported Liberal Paul Martin’s minority in 2005 and then brought him down, opening the door for a Stephen Harper Conservative minority.  His recent fight with prostate cancer and then a hip operation did not seem to slow him down.

It was only when we saw the teleprompters he was using at the NDP set pieces during the election this year that we realized that he was not as well as he was making out.  We expected teleprompter use for Stephen Harper to stay tightly scripted but Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff were experienced lecturers and did not always need this type of aid.  We watched him more closely and while he used the cane as an effective prop, you could see that he needed it.

His colloquial French was what won him approval during the 2011 election.  The slipping away of Bloc Quebecois support in Quebec and the endorsement by the Toronto Star in Ontario were the critical factors that put him into the position to win second place and the role of Opposition Leader.  His splitting of votes with the Liberals also gave Stephen Harper his majority government.

In wishing Jack a speedy recovery from the new cancer concern, you could almost imagine some sincerity in the Prime Minister’s voice.  With Harper’s wooden style, it is hard to tell.

But we can sincerely wish Jack well.  It is always better to compete with the opponent you know.


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