Being a member of the United Church of Canada, the late Jack Layton never seemed to have strong religious beliefs. We have no idea from what heaven, hell, purgatory or Elysium field that he might be observing his deification back in Danforth electoral district in Toronto. If he is, he certainly must be enjoying a heck of a good laugh about it.
As Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Canada’s House of Commons, Jack was so much out of his depth that that alone might have killed him. The news media liked to project him as ‘Just plain Jack,’ ignoring his doctorate and years as a professor of political science. Those of us who campaigned against him knew him better as a doggedly determined social democrat. We also knew that he had few moves and little creativity in political manoeuvring. You knew what he would do.
Mind you, he must have been on strong pain-killers when he chose NDP MP Nicole Turmel as his stand-in when he once again tried to defeat the cancer that was ravaging his body. The choices made as to many of the NDP candidates in Quebec in the May 2011 election where, in turn, slipshod, careless, unorganized and undemocratic and clearly indicated that Jack had no expectation of any NDP breakthrough in that province.
The biggest joke of Jack’s last election campaign was that it heralded his return to campaigning in Quebec Province. He campaigned as ‘Just plain Jack’ from Hudson, Quebec, not as a product of Anglophone Montreal. He and his advisors in that province had no indication of the plummeting popularity of the Bloc Quebecois and the seriousness of the continued dissatisfaction with the federal Liberals.
You have to be a liberal to still be annoyed at Jack for the cheap shot he took at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in the English-language leaders’ debate last April. What was obvious was that Michael was in no way prepared for it and Jack got away with it. It was the remark he made about the time Michael spent in the House of Commons. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has tremendous demands on his time and he has to balance his attendance in the House with all those other demands. Jack knew that.
While you could appreciate the pomp and ceremony of Jack’s funeral and the opportunity it presented to the NDP, the truth is that Olivia and Jack are not saints and the NDP could never repeat the same stunt in Quebec. The stars will never align like that again.
Jack never was much of a union guy. He marched with them on Labour Day and accepted their support. He was a social democrat and that is the nicest thing we can say about him. He would have looked on the bringing together of the Liberal and New Democratic parties as inevitable. Let us hope his successor is a like-minded person.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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