After Jack Layton and his orange wave swept Quebec, he could have gloated. He could have given a smug wink to Paul Martin, Jean ChrÃ©tien, Stephen Harper, StÃ©phane Dion and every other federalist who tried to take Quebec from the Bloc, but he didn’t.
He called Brian Mulroney instead. This was Jack Layton: smart, logical and humble. It was such a simple, human act. It was so special, and unusual. It is something that is just not seen in politics, where the opposition is seen as evil. Jack Layton was different.
There was Harper, lamenting the fact that he and his rival never made time to jam.
Then there was Gilles Duceppe talking about how he used to hang out with Layton in the gym and chat. On and on, the stories of Layton’s totally human character flow out of everyone who knew him and we are left wondering why more leaders are not as real.
The answer is that most leaders are not Layton, the most exciting figure in Canadian politics for the last 10 years. He gave the socially conscious in Canada someone to rally behind. He gave the young a leader who would listen to them.
There is a big hole left in the Canadian political landscape, but let’s not be too bleak about it.
Layton exhorted Canadians in his final message to work together, and be positive. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair,” he wrote.
We are privileged to have lived with Layton’s example. He belongs with John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Terry Fox as an inspiration and an example to strive towards.
I think of the time I gave Layton my card in 2004. It said, “You met Daniel J. Rowe and loved it.” He took my card, laughed and said that it was “awesome.”
Little did I know how true the inverse message would become. You were awesome, Jack, and we loved it.
Rowe is a former member of the New Democratic Party.