Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton

Thoughts and best wishes to all NDP and Canadian political friends today. What a very sad day it has been as we have all been struck by the loss of Jack Layton. There are many eloquent tributes and statements being made. I just want to add a few observations about the man. The political consequences and considerations can wait for another day.

The thing that has stood out to me as I've been thinking today, first and foremost, is the devotion to political public service that he embodied. There are very few individuals who make a life's work out of politics, from beginning to end, and Jack was one of them. He really had a remarkably long tenure in political life. For this example, I admired him very much. He really did seem to love it, live it, breathe it. We could do with a lot more of that variety in our politics in Canada. Those who care about it all, heart and soul. 

A further thought, that Jack also had a sense of modern politics in Canada. How it is all developing and how it should be played. His 2004 book starts with this quote: "Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters." In those three mantras you can see the seeds of the party infrastructure he worked to build. We're living in different political times, it's technologically driven, the ground has been shifting in the last few years and Layton seems to have been quite skilled in detecting those shifts, better than many others. Respect.

Finally, like many others are probably doing, I also thought today about the brief interaction I had with him. Many, many years ago one night at a Queen Street bar in the 90s at some point. I was there with friends who thought I was a little nuts to have gone up and said hello to him as he was standing by the bar with, no doubt, his fellow politicos. I have little recollection of what I said or what my pretense was for saying hello. But I do recall that he made a pitch for me to join the NDP or get involved in something or other that he was then involved in. I said no (even then!) as I was working on some by-election or other for a non-NDP candidate. He was cheerful and unflappable. I mention this only because it is probably a common little scene that has played out hundreds of times for many who encountered him in Toronto or elsewhere.

Here's to you, Jack.
The heart can think of no devotion
Greater than being shore to the ocean—
Holding the curve of one position,
Counting an endless repetition.