Death of Jack Layton
This morning Jack Layton died. He was the leader of the New Democratic Party and the new leader of the Official Opposition in Canada's parliament. (I have been a lifelong supporter of the NDP
In July, Jack announced that he was taking time off to fight a new cancer. from which he was suffering . He had successfully fought prostate cancer. At that meeting it was obvious he was dreadfully ill but few spoke of it as he said he hoped to be back in September for the opening of parliament. He was no longer the fit vigorous politician who had lead his party to a remarkable electoral victory to take over as the official opposition. He had rebuilt the party from being at risk of losing its party status to official opposition during his tenure. He shall also be remembered, by force of personality and political skill, he convinced large numbers of Quebeckers to give a federal party their support and see Federal Canada as a place to meet the needs and ambitions of French Quebec. In the process the Bloc Quebecois, the separatist party in parliament was destroyed. Now the NDP, without Jack, will have to lead the progressive opposition to the Conservative government and prove to Quebec that its future can be worked out within Canada.
For my American friends, I should say the the New Democratic Party in Canada has no equivalent in the United States. It is a progressive social democratic party. This means that it is a party that seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of people before those of corporations. It's role in Canadian politics has been to keep Canada increasingly meeting the needs of people from a series of programs from the social safety net to universal health care to political and social rights legislation. It is a party that began as a populist party in Western Canada, Cooperative Commonwealth Party (CCF), to finally merge with organized labour in the East to form the present party. Its founder, Tommy Douglas is considered the father of Canada's health care system as well as being considered, the greatest Canadian.
The NDP is often called by its detractors as a socialist party. I do not consider it is one. It once was but years ago it gave up on a policy of nationalizing some major industries in Canada and has done little to oppose the privatization of many Canadian industries such as oil and gas, railroads, and airlines. With a Conservative government there will always be pressures to weaken national institutions such as universal health care, the CBC, The National Film Board and other regulatory agencies. There will always be a need for a progressive party in Canada such as the NDP, particularly now. Jack Layton made believers of many that it can be more than the moral conscience of the Nation. It can be the Loyal Opposition and some day it could be the party in power and form the government. This was Jack's ambition.
Jack Layton and his wife Olivia Chow, partners in life and politic
Jack Layton has been a life long political animal who came from a family with deep Canadian and political roots. Here is a brief summary of his life