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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, August 22, 2011

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

Jack Layton was a populist and was comfortable with all the cultural groups in Canada. He was a man of cosmopolitan multicultural Toronto. (Besides French, he spoke Chinese). Be was born and raised in an English community in Quebec and knew and enjoyed French Canadian society.

His charm, openness and his street level French allowed him to help convince Quebecers to give the New Democratic Party a chance to represent them in Parliament.

To honour Jack the NDP will have to work hard to be an effective Loyal Opposition and work for the people of Canada, as individuals and groups.

Le Bon Jack, Salut!

PS: I received from the New Democratic Party this morning of a letter written to all of us his best advice for the future. It is a moving example of the focus and principles of this man who spend his life serving Canada in politics. I invite you to read it here. Thanks, Jack.

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At 11:58 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Well done, Philip. I was shocked as prostate cancer can be mild and slow acting, but he did seem pretty sick in July. I have voted Liberal until the last election as I always felt they had a better chance. However, living in the red neck riding that I do, my vote is lost anyway, so I voted for Jack last time. Too bad he is not present to lead his party now that they have some clout and are sorely in need of a leader given the lack of experience in the party.

At 1:15 p.m., Blogger Owen Gray said...

This is a very sad day, Philip. Like a lot of Montrealers of our generation, Jack went down the road to Toronto, where he left his mark before leaving for Ottawa.

His optimism, good humour and love of country defined him. He will be missed.

At 10:14 p.m., Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

I did not know Jack Layton and know little about the New Democratic Party. And yet I have tears in my eyes after reading his eloquent letter. I will do some reading and learn more about the New Democratic Party. A party that "seeks to meet the needs and aspirations of people before those of corporations" sounds wonderful and I am sorry we don't have an equivalent here in the US.

At 2:14 a.m., Blogger Gattina said...

Very sad for him. Unfortunately completely unknown to me.

At 7:25 a.m., Blogger possum said...

How wonderful that Canada had a man like him. How sad now that he is gone, but maybe someone will be inspired to step up to the plate that he defined. He certainly sounds like a good man. We could use a man like that in this country.
Funny, we both did a post about good men in politics, only yours has such a sad ending.
I am glad blogger is letting me onto the comments page this morning!

At 9:37 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Thanks for this tribute, and for helping inform your readers across the border.
I am happy to say that the New York Times did a write up today. I was fearful the U.S. press would ignore this death altogether.


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