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.
--Jack Layton, from his "Letter to Canadians"
Jack Layton's funeral isn't until tomorrow, but as I won't be in Toronto, I thought I would take a few moments today to remember one of the greatest leaders our country never had.
Jack Layton took charge of the NDP in 2002 at a time when its stock was pretty much at its lowest, with only 14 seats in Parliament. This was not a kind time for the NDP: the West was a lost cause, Ontario was gun shy after its provincial experiment with leftism resulted in Rae Days, and even the East had brought diminishing returns for the party. There did not appear to be much hope that the Canadian public would turn away from the Liberals and the Conservatives, but that didn't matter to Jack. In both 2004 and 2006, he fought the good fight for his party; even when his horse was lame, he was still there, smiling, slugging it out. And then things began to change. Earlier this year, the NDP made considerable gains in Quebec, resulting in a record number of seats in Parliament and the mantle of Official Opposition. These gains were very much because of Jack's quiet charisma.
I didn't necessarily agree with Jack Layton politically; he was often more left than my generally centrist beliefs. However, I admired him enormously: He had compassion, conviction, and commitment in a way that no other leader has had (at least in my voting lifetime). He was personable, charismatic, and...well, normal. His commitment to our country was incredibly; no matter how bad the NDP's fortunes seemed, he was always working, always committed to his vision of his party and our country.
It's heartbreaking to know that he lost his battle with cancer so soon after the greatest victories of his political career, to know that he'll never get the chance to explore his new position to its fullest.