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Saturday August 22 marks the fourth anniversary of Jack Layton's death. Beloved by Canadians from all walks of life, he turned us onto politics in the best way, and gave us hope for the future. In that way he was the quintessential Canadian -- hopeful, loving, and optimistic. Who can forget his poignant letter to Canadians, and his endearing habit of waving his walking stick as a tool of defiance to his sickness, and as a symbol that he could do it (his favourite quote: "don't let them tell you it can't be done").
I know he'd be laughing today and grinning as he watched media pundits choke on their words about the one time "fluke" of the "orange wave." He'd point to the years of building and careful preparation that made the orange wave possible in Quebec and elsewhere. He'd be proud of current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and what he's accomplished in four years, and he'd be over the moon that the NDP federal caucus that he built is going strong and aiming to grow.
So it's bittersweet that the man we'd most like to celebrate for his vision and success is the man we grieve. I still get people coming up to me on the street recounting how they met him at an airport, or on the street, or at an event in their community. There's always a common thread -- they all felt he genuinely listened to them, and responded with warmth and interest.
In this day and age of Duffy trials, cynicism, lying, and fear-mongering, we need to summon up the good karma of Jack Layton and remember what he worked for and not let ourselves be sucked into a vortex of anger and fear about politics that leaves people so paralyzed they can't act and change what's going on around them.
Jack was passionate about the need to address climate change both globally and locally and he was equally passionate about homelessness and the "unnatural disaster" of the growing numbers of people who are destitute in this extraordinarily wealthy country. These two issues are related and he got that. He understood that fundamental change is needed to care for our planet and the people who are most at risk of dying. He understood that the current course of public policy ignores and exacerbates these issues and that it creates untold misery and suffering.
It's not that he was the greatest visionary -- he was a superb pragmatist at heart -- it's that he could see a way forward was possible and achievable and he knew the steps that needed to be taken.
So, on this anniversary of our brief connection to Jack Layton and his wonderful life, what will you think about? What will you do?
I'll tell you my answer: I resolve to be more informed about what is happening around me in my community and I will work hard to defeat the Conservative government, which has done so much damage to this country. Yes, that sounds partisan, but heck we are in the middle of a federal election, and Jack would have a conniption if he thought I weren't talking it up and calling for people to get involved.
One last word of importance for me, and I think many of us: Olivia. I was delighted that she jumped into the race -- no doubt a tough decision. Oh, that Jack were here to cheer her on and tell her how proud he is that she is out there working her butt off, for what she believes in. He can't do that, so I figure we need to be Jack's voice and support her all the way.
I miss you Jack. I'm one of countless many who remember you, what you stood for and that you were a really decent guy.
Libby was Jack's good friend and his House Leader for eight years in Parliament, and first met him in the early 1980s when they were both city councillors in Toronto and Vancouver.
Photo: flickr/Matt Jiggins
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