Much will be said of and written about the late Jack Layton in the days and weeks to come so The Expositor would be remiss in failing to add its own observations.
Mr. Layton quarterbacked a stunning change in the fortunes of the national party he led––the federal New Democratic Party––in the most recent federal General Election.
It is atypical for men and women in positions of power and authority to succumb to illness and die relatively young.
Mr. Layton, sadly, at 61 was just coming to his full political strength when he succumbed to cancer early Monday morning.
Mr. Layton impressed Canadians as an honest and hardworking politician and the recent federal election that gave his party official opposition status in the House of Commons (largely at the expense of the Parti Quebecois) was very much a Jack Layton victory.
Mr. Layton was nothing if not impish: in both the election just past and, especially, in the election previous to that one when he unabashedly declared that he was running for the position of Prime Minister of Canada.
It’s an abiding image, that of Mr. Layton standing up on his hind legs and telling Canadians that he is running for the Prime Minister’s job.
Those memorable moments did much to endear Mr. Layton to Canadians of every political stripe as the leader of “the little party that could” and, in fact, did install Mr. Layton, if not at 44 Sussex Drive, then at least at Stornoway, the Ottawa mansion reserved for the family of the leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Layton was the most successful, in terms of seats won, in a line of very illustrious and well thought of CCF and NDP leaders dating back to J.S. Woodsworth, the founder of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation through Tommy Douglas, who as leader oversaw the party’s name change to the New Democratic Party (and who, in a very poplar CBC poll three years ago, was voted the most important Canadian in our history) through the intellectual David Lewis and his successor Ed Broadbent, a professorial political philosopher by traning and who, until Mr. Layton’s recent win, had led the party to its strongest showing.
Mr. Layton succeeded Audrey McLaughlin, the first woman party leader in Canada and then Alexa McDonough.
He was very much in the practically idealistic tradition of J.W. Woodsworth and Tommay Douglas (both clergymen) and also of intellectuals David Lewis and Ed Broadbent.
His shoes will be large ones to fill, particularly just now as the NDP has reached the apogee of its strength and popularity, and this in the context of a new majority Conservative parliament.
Mr. Layton, you set a fine example.