Halleluiah, Halleluiah Brother.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper might not have thought through all the potential effects of a state funeral for Jack Layton.  This was the first state funeral for an opposition leader in 100 years and that last one was for Wilfrid Laurier who was a former Prime Minister.  Where Harper might have miscalculated was that he provided Stephen Lewis, a former  Ontario New Democrat leader, with a national audience for a highly partisan eulogy.

It was a beautifully crafted speech that contained standing ovation after standing ovation.  It went way beyond a celebration of the life of Jack Layton.  And how often do you have standing ovations at a funeral?  When the wandering cameras came to rest later during the service on Stephen Lewis and his wife Michele Landsberg, you were seeing one of Canada’s best orators with one of its best writers.  That is a powerful combination.

You could see the effects of the speech on the faces of people in the crowds outside Roy Thompson Hall.  They were rapt, they were cheering, they were involved and they believed.  It was hardly just an NDP audience.  Federal Cabinet Ministers Tony Clement and John Baird were sitting there looking a little shell shocked.  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty looked like his seat did not fit him for some reason.

It was too bad that, under election rules, the NDP could not pass the hat at the event.  It could have been a good haul.

But they will look at the memberships they pick up in the weeks to come and that should give the party a boost across Canada.  It was especially telling that there was repeatedly strong representation at the event in French.  There was a particularly striking rendition of the song Croire (Believing) that left no doubt of the importance the NDP is placing on the party’s Quebec breakthrough in the last election.

While there is adverse reaction being voiced about the excesses in the news media over the past week, there is no question but Jack Layton’s common man approach struck a cord with the Canadian people.  Whether the New Democrats can fly to greater heights on that image remains to be seen.  Ask that question again in October.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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