I'll remember one thing in particular about his time as interim leader. How he reminded people of the essence of being a Liberal, that the heart is part of the political program in addition to the rational policy driven by the head. He emphasized issues like a national suicide prevention strategy. He talked openly about his own experience with depression. He was a leader on aboriginal affairs. When he spoke in the House of Commons to his October 22, 2012 motion on replacing the Indian Act and engaging with aboriginal peoples on a new nation-to-nation basis, there was this jarring moment:
Just last week I was in a northern community in Nunavik in northern Quebec. There is a housing shortage of as many as a thousand units in one community in Kuujjuaq. We see this situation every day. The most touching situation we have seen is that in that very same community three kids committed suicide in the space of a week, and on the wall in the school was a big agreement signed by the students saying, “I promise to live”. They all signed it because they wanted to make that commitment.Bob wore his heart on his sleeve in a classy way and combined it with a clear focus on the fixing.
I wonder if internationally we can really hold our heads up high when we recognize the discrepancy between the conditions that exist for the majority of Canadians and the conditions that exist for those who are first nations and aboriginal people. I do not think we can. Therefore, how do we deal with this?
His humour and sense of fun humanized his approach to politics too. This tribute to his exit as interim leader was fitting:
I remember voting for Bob in 1990 in that momentous provincial election. I went back to law school for my second year immediately following that vote. I remember a dinner where my friends were sharing that they had voted for Bob too. We were all expressing a feeling of hope and having done the right thing with our vote. A magic political moment it was. And then he went onwards from there.
He may not have become PM, the timing didn't work for him. But can we say that he didn't become one of the great Canadian political statespersons of our time? Surpassing many of this era who did go on to become PM? No, he was and will continue to be.