Dear friends,

I have said it on Twitter and on Facebook, and now I’d like to say it in a letter to you:

Thank you so much for your friendship and support during the 2012 leadership contest, just concluded.

When it’s over, it’s over. And like all New Democrats all across Canada, there must be only one thing on all of our minds from now on — unity behind our new leader, Tom Mulcair; strength; and an absolute focus on the task at hand, which is to offer Canadians a better government.

Still and all, perhaps I’ll offer a few parting thoughts on what we’ve all just been through.

National campaigns are always intense experiences — but they usually last for seven weeks or so. And then we go whew! that was quite a ride. This seven month marathon was of an entirely different magnitude. And so, it was a unique opportunity to see our country, to get to know our party in its deepest grass roots, to get to know my colleagues in the race, and to renew and make friendships I will treasure for the rest of my life.

This really is a remarkable country. It’s an ocean of land. It is an archipelago of communities. And it is something more — a country of citizens who share some powerful communitarian values and principles that our current government does not understand. Canadians are looking for something better. That’s going to be us.

Our party is remarkably strong — Jack Layton’s gift to Canada. It is bursting with young people; crackling with ideas; it is asking good questions; it is smiling, optimistic, and serious about its role. I will always be grateful to the many hundreds of members who came to talk to me during this campaign I was honoured to have my time with you.

Martin Singh with his passionate commitment to national pharmacare; Robert Chisholm with his deep experience as a successful provincial leader; Romeo Saganash, one of Canada’s most accomplished First Nations leaders, with much to teach us; Niki Ashton with her remarkable polylingual prairie determination to renew politics; Paul Dewar with his passionate decency, engaging family and impressive grassroots campaign; Peggy Nash, my fantastic MP here in Parkdale High Park, the rassembleuse; Nathan Cullen, who reminded so many of Jack, challenging us to think new about what it’s going to take to unseat Mr. Harper; and Tom Mulcair, my colleague on the last ballot, now my leader, who lived up to his reputation as a truly formidable opponent — not a bad thing to put up against this Conservative government. All of my colleagues in this race were members of the “Layton generation” — and collectively, they have proved that we have the leadership under Tom Mulcair and the team to not only challenge Mr. Harper but to replace him. I was very lucky to have been allowed to stand with them on those stages.

Finally, I hope you won’t mind if I take a moment to thank the many people who helped me in this campaign.
I was blessed to have the support and endorsement of some of the most impressive and accomplished Parliamentarians, past and present, federal and provincial, in our party. I will find my way to each of you in coming weeks to thank you personally. I was deeply honoured and moved by your support. I hope you won’t mind if I say what a particular thrill and honour it was to see Shirley Douglas stand up to nominate me and to remind us all, once again, why we are here — and why we will never give up.

My campaign manager Raymond Guardia is the architect of our electoral victory in Quebec, a goal he has worked towards all his adult life, so much of which he has devoted, passionately, to our party and our cause. He headed an extraordinary team of organizers, writers, web-warriors, phone bankers, videographers, and many many others who gave their hearts and souls to my campaign through grinding hours. To all of those who helped me in so many ways: I will always be grateful to you. I will always treasure your help. And what a treasure it is to have such friends, now and for the rest of our lives.

My brothers and sisters at the United Steelworkers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union led a fine labour team. I was just about as proud to stand with you in this campaign, as I will be in the many campaigns we in the labour movement will work together on in the years ahead. A special thank you to Leo Gerard, Ken Neumann, and Dave Coles for your help and support — and to all my labour colleagues in many unions across Canada who stood with me. Now we stand together with our party and our leader, Tom Mulcair.

I am blessed to have a remarkable partner, Rebecca Elbourne, and two remarkable sons, Simon and Alex who, fortunately, take after their mom. They were pretty hoarse after convention (twelve hours or so of chanting slogans will do that to you), just a little taste of the support my family gave me on this journey. Paul Dewar’s partner told the media after convention, “we have each other, we’re ok”. That’s exactly how I feel about things, and am so lucky that is so.

So this campaign is over and the next begins — our campaign to replace this Conservative government with a better one.

To work, friends.