Home > Current Affairs, Politics > Good Night, Sweet Mustache

Good Night, Sweet Mustache

And a flight of socialists sing thee to thy rest.

Passing away at the age of 61 after a long fight with cancer, longtime NDP leader Jack Layton leaves an enormous hole in left-wing Canadian politics that may not be properly filled in the foreseeable future. The closest thing to a charismatic leader in post-millenial Canadian federal politics, Layton dominated his party seemingly for ever, and the combination of his longevity, his passionate engagement, and his intimations of personal integrity (whatever that terms can actually mean in an inherently dissembling profession like politics) finally seemed to be winning over fickle voters in larger numbers in urban areas and Quebec in the past election. Even the stubborn rural and suburban voters who found the NDP’s message of social equality threatening to their apathetic personal comfort had to admit a begrudging respect for feisty Jack. Little wonder that his longest rival, Conservative PM Stephen Harper, felt it necessary to give the duly elected leader of the Official Opposition a state funeral.

Of course, Harper can well afford to be magnanimous. It was unclear to what extent an obviously ailing Layton could have held the feet of a Conservative majority to the fire on most issues in the coming Parliamentary sessions, but it’s a moot point now. With the sad departure of his most insistent gnat, Harper’s dominance of federal politics is now completely assured. All three opposition parties now have interim leaders, and the idea of Nycole Turmel leading the fight against Harperite legislation is not an inspiring one. Layton obviously read this situation well, his parting letter to Canadians doubling as a heartfelt farewell and a stirring call to political arms.

Of course, Layton need not have left such a gap behind him. Not meaning to rain on the commemorative parade, I do feel the need to acknowledge one less inspiring side of Layton’s illness and eventual passing. The many Canadian voters who rallied to his party’s cause, especially in Quebec, did so at least partly (perhaps even largely) on the strength of his personality and his passion. Maybe even a few who had previously dismissed him and his party’s proud social democratic values admired his tenacity on the campaign trail, fighting through what must have been terrible pain for what he believed. Still, I do wonder how many would have cast their ballot as they did if they knew how long feisty Jack had left, if they had known that the man they at least partly voted to represent them would not be able to do so. We don’t know the details of Layton’s cancer, and when it became clear that it was likely to be fatal, and certainly a full disclosure along those lines during the campaign may have been electorally disastrous. And maybe it was clear to many that he wasn’t likely to fight on for long. The timing was not on his side, but it rarely is with the big C.

At any rate, the outpouring of public grief and remembrance has been impressive for a figure whose actual stances were divisive at best. Doubts and complaints and negative feelings have a way of being erased by the looming shadow of death (just ask Michael Jackson’s rehabilitated legend). No matter what you thought of him (and I voted for his party on multiple occasions myself), Jack Layton was a man of conviction who was greatly dedicated to the ideals of public service. Here’s hoping the Canadian left can dig up another one like him before too long, because he will be missed in the long fight against Harperism.

Categories: Current Affairs, Politics
  1. Lorraine Langager
    August 23, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Goodbye Jack, indefatigable warrior for the downtrodden. Your irrespressible spirit will most certainly be missed.

  1. October 20, 2015 at 9:58 pm

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