For immediate release - Thursday, September 1, 2011
(Ottawa) Inspired by Jack Layton's final message, almost 1,000 Canadians have already signed up to participate in a week of gatherings and a day of action designed to help them organize themselves, across generations and party lines, to work together for change. Leadnow.ca, the organization that made vote mobs a national phenomena in the last election, is coordinating the campaign, called Turning Point.
* The Turning Point gatherings will take place between Tuesday, September 27 and Sunday, October 2nd.
* The Turning Point day of action will take place on Monday, October 3rd.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to give the late NDP leader Jack Layton a state funeral can be parsed two ways: a noble gesture or a Machiavellian political manoeuvre to further marginalize his original foe, the leaderless, languishing Liberals.
But no one, least of all Harper himself, could have predicted Canadians' week-long outpouring of emotion. Was it a fleeting historical moment? Or something more profound? If the former, political normalcy will return with the opening of Parliament Sept. 21. If the latter, the state funeral could turn out to be Harper's biggest political mistake yet.
Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we've seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.
Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.
To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It's astonishing.
As funeral guests gathered at the door of the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto to mourn Jack Layton's passing and celebrate his life on Saturday, activists, First Nations leaders, campaigners, diplomats and politicians of all stripes and areas of Canada were counted among them.
From the moment the ceremony began there was no doubt that this was to be a very political event, not just because of its guest list, but because this ceremony, planned by Layton and his family as his illness progressed, a clear message was being sent to Canada: social justice is important, Canadians want it, and Canada is capable of achieving that goal.
The second last time I saw Jack Layton was at a garden party at Stornoway in late June. Speaking under a vast white tent as desultory raindrops punished the exiled mass of smokers, he declared his and Olivia's new house, the residence of the leader of the official opposition, to be "the people's house."
Shortly afterwards I caught him on his way out and sheepishly asked for a photo. I can't say why really, I suppose I was overcome by the emotion of the moment. In seven years and something like 20 meetings and conversations, it was the first time I posed for a picture with him. I remember mumbling apologies for being so sycophantic, which he brushed off with his usual generosity of spirit.