Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jack Layton, Rob Ford, and our Better Angels

I see that support for the NDP is surging and that Jack is getting the credit.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said the NDP gain is most likely attributable to “the Jack effect.”

“The national outpouring of emotion we witnessed over Jack Layton’s untimely death appears to have translated directly into increased support for the party he leaves behind,” Gregg said.

But you know what's also awesome eh? A lot of Canadians, of all political persuasions, deserve some credit too. Because beyond partisan politics, his death seems to have brought out the best in us, by appealing to our better angels, and reminding us who we really are.

Take Rob Ford for example. Normally, as you know, the Fordzilla can be counted on to take crassness to new heights, or record lows. But since Jack's death he has stunned me by actually showing some class. He has been praising Layton as the man who taught him "everything" about City Hall.

And now he's even proposing a permanent memorial.

Mayor Rob Ford’s office has asked city to look at the possibility of naming Toronto’s Peace Garden in honour of Layton as a permanent memorial to the federal NDP leader, Toronto MP and former city councillor.

Started in the 1980s, the Peace Garden is currently under construction as part of the Nathan Phillips Square renovation. The square was repeatedly filled with chalk tributes to Layton last week.

Now it's entirely possible that His Lordship looked out of his office window shortly after Jack's death, and saw a young woman writing the first message on a wall.

I wanted to take ... I don't know, something. Flowers didn't seem right. So I bought a couple of boxes of chalk.

When I was done I left the chalk on the ground by the ramp, and ... things got sort of splendidly out-of-hand.

And the next time he looked out of his window he saw this...

And it scared the shit out of him.

But maybe, just maybe, for as short as this sweet moment might last, like so many others, he realized that after all is said and done, he too is a Canadian. And it could only happen here.

There is no politician like Jack Layton in Australia, the U.S. or Europe. Sure, those places have left-leaning parties with great leaders. But no one I know can speak to the people of the things that matter the way Jack could. And so those who knew something of Canadian politics looked to Jack for inspiration.

Yeah. Say it again: It could only happen in Canada eh?

Oh boy. You know I'm pretty hard on my country. As I am on myself. I want both of us to be the BEST we can.

But occasionally I'm reminded that for all our wrong turns, and our terrible mistakes, we still have so much going for us, we ARE different. And we are still capable of GREAT things.

So instead of running down to the beach after reading that poll, wearing my victory tuque, the one with the bells on it, and firing off bottle rockets, until Sébastien restrained me. Or the grumpy old man at the end of the street threatened to call the police.

I'm sitting here peacefully, and thinking...

My beautiful Canada, how lucky I am to live here.

Thank you Jack for reminding us who we really are...

And play it again my real Canadians...

h/t Aaron Wherry


  1. Anonymous3:08 AM

    |Well said Simon. It's so sad that so many people didn't know how great Jack was. I think people are almost immunized against hearing anything good or positive from our politicians. They just expect the worst from them.

    It was Jack that kept me hoping that a better Government was only one election away. It's hard to not be discouraged but I'll be supportive to the next NDP leader and will keep "paying attention" to who is doing what in the political spectrum! Knowledge is power! Maybe that was a big part of Jack's secret to success. He was a very smart man.

  2. Anonymous11:13 AM

    The problem for the NDP is where to go from here. The road to power lies in suburban and rural areas outside Quebec where the Conservatives pretty much dominated the last election, since they pretty much own the urban core areas and Quebec.

    They need someone who can win over those areas (suburbs tend to be centrist to centre-right hence they flip between Conservative and Liberal but went for Harper this time, rural areas more of the Tea Party-type and solidly conservative), without alienating their core supports in left-leaning urban areas and in Quebec.

    Not an easy task at all these days since there are huge differences between those types of areas. The suburbs might hold some potential if younger voters come out in droves, but are there enough of them?