Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack Layton, Loyal Opposition: July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011

Yesterday's news took my breath away. Four weeks ago, when Jack Layton announced he'd be absenting himself from Parliament for the rest of the summer to focus on his fight against cancer I imagined his was a dire prognosis. But my God, it's been less than a month.

Even leaning on a cane, he didn't appear hampered by his condition. When his wife Olivia joined him on the platform, the two seemed to get hot and bothered just courting the public vote. The world loves a lover — well, I did anyway. On Facebook I opined that Layton was the only national party leader whose smile didn't creep me out. Friends quickly reported other, quite different, reactions.

I voted for Layton in this last election, as well as some of the previous elections. It's likely he got my vote when he ran for mayor of Toronto, but I can't recall. Having said that, my support was not without criticism or concern. This last time around, in fact, I was determined to hold my nose and vote Liberal. Front page news on the nation's Sun tabloids, put to press in the final days of the campaign and announcing that Layton had been “caught” (and subsequently released without charges) in a massage parlor of ill-repute nearly 15 years ago, changed my mind. Nobody's come out and said Stephen Harper had anything to do with the publication, but considering the man's notoriety for micromanaging his party's campaigns and fighting dirty on the Hill, I daresay I'm catching the whiff of rosewater from Harper's palms.

I think that sums up why Layton got my support with some consistency over the decades. He could court controversy of the sort that threatened to put me off, but when it was time to hash things out in the Commons I usually had a clearer idea where he stood than I did of the Grits or Tories. Jack Layton came closer to embodying the ideal of Loyal Opposition than any of the rest of 'em — including, especially, the sneak who's presently running the show.

Links: Jack Layton's final letter to Canadians. Layton claimed professor Charles Taylor was perhaps the greatest political influence in his life. If you're a twenty-something Canadian you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with this man's ideas — especially if you think Layton's policies were wrong-headed. Start here.

Addendum: Here is a short quote from Prime Minister Harper. It seems likely to be in reference to this episode. It gets me thinking I should perhaps ease up a bit on the innuendo — August 25, 2011.

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