I’ve been applying for jobs with various media outlets in Ottawa. In July, when Jack Layton announced he would return in September after fighting his battle with cancer I allowed myself to imagine meeting him. I usually disagree with the N.D.P. so we would probably argue, maybe get into a heated debate. At some point he’d say something that would make me look at the world a little bit differently- maybe make me smile. And we’d part, prepared to do a similar battle all over again some other time.
Now my imagined meeting with him won’t happen. Jack Layton died today at 4:45 am, and Canada at least is poorer for it. All I know of Jack I’ve seen or heard on television, or read in newspapers and online. I never met him, but he had a sincerity, and a strength of his convictions that transcends all media. It showed most recently in the election campaign. While Ignatieff, and Harper were busy going after each other with faked anger over a coalition, or the G.S.T., or the purchase of military jets- there was Jack Layton and the N.D.P running their election- their pace slow, and steady promoting their platform, spreading their message of change, and meeting Canadians across the country. The little party that could; the little party that did.
And their message resonated loudly with all Canadians. When Layton talked of a better Canada, and of bringing civility to Ottawa I believed him. I wanted the status quo to change- the two front runners Iggy and Harper just weren’t doing it for me anymore. When election day ended the little party that could with its tireless leader became Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition- a position made more vital by having to check a Harper-led majority government.
It’s one of life’s tragic ironies that Mr. Layton isn’t able to enjoy that massive success- that he barely tasted it before having it torn away by fate. Like everyone else I was heartbroken when I watched the press conference. The energetic man seen raising his cane in celebration was now skinny with a sallow complexion, and a voice that sounded like it belonged to a man decades older. I highly doubted then he would make his goal to return to Parliament, and yet I was rooting for him thinking Cancer had found itself a worthy adversary that would end up kicking its butt. I was sadly wrong about that.
Canada doesn’t just mourn a political leader today. We mourn a good man, whose belief in himself, and passion for his country stretched beyond all boundaries. We mourn a man whose optimistic spirit, and positive message makes us believe we can build a better country and a better world. He believed Canadians could change the world, and said so in a final statement that ends with these words: 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. Now it’s up to us to justify his belief.
Rest in Peace Jack… I hope we’ll meet someday.