As I walked into the break room this afternoon to grab a bottle of water, I caught a glimpse of Jack Layton out of the corner of my eye. A glimpse was all I could get, as sadly his health problems have manifested themselves in his physical appearance, leaving him pale and very thin. His press conference spoke to that fact, as he announced his leave of absence from leading the NDP to engage in a full-time battle with his second diagnosis of cancer. Whatever your political leanings, this is a deeply disheartening blow to the people of Canada.
I am certainly no supporter of the bulk of the New Democratic platform. I seriously doubt that anyone with even a hint of economic understanding could be. Nevertheless I backed Mr. Layton in this past May’s federal election. Why? The easy answer could be that I wanted an alternative to the opaque, dishonest, and at times scary leadership that we are now saddled with for the foreseeable future. Another would be that I didn’t like Iggy or the Liberals, and I had no alternative. Actually, neither of those is true. As an arch-capitalist and intellectual elitist both of the, then, ‘major parties’ had their appeal. What I found in Jack Layton (and let’s be clear, I voted for the mustachioed leader and not the party) was the integrity and honesty I couldn’t get from the Conservatives, and the positive and hopeful outlook I didn’t get from the Liberals. Jack Layton, quite simply, is the best leader we have in our country… despite his politics. *While I did vote NDP, I did so with the hope that should they take power they would acknowledge that their platform was little more than a fairy-tale wish list and would back away from some of the more disastrous policies.*
With Mr. Layton’s (hopefully) temporary departure from politics, the NDP has lost the leadership that took them from perpetual also-rans and elevated them to become the official opposition. All Canadians are losing something though; an idealist in the best sense of the word. Seeing my country reflected through his eyes made me proud to be Canadian. I wish him a full and fast recovery, so I can go back to casually bumping into him during my Sunday morning strolls through Kensington Market.