“The letter was first presented as Mr. Layton’s last message to Canadians, as something written by him on his deathbed; only later was it more fully described as having been “crafted” with party president Brian Topp, Mr. Layton’s chief of staff Anne McGrath and his wife and fellow NDP MP Olivia Chow.”
I definitely take the “Blatchford” approach to the death of NDP leader Jack Layton (see below).
He was a very pleasant and approachable individual, but that did not in any way alter the fact that his political ideology was unrealistic, backward, and essentially selfish.
As with all leftist career activists I have met and observed, he did very well for himself. The expression “Chardonnay socialist” readily comes to mind when we consider his opting to live in co-operative housing, and the subsequent scandal that caused a few years ago.
I started working at New City Hall in Toronto in late 1976, and Layton was first elected to City Council in 1982. He would often take a table or two in the back part of the long-gone Foster’s Tavern behind City Hall to ‘jam’ with his fellow starry-eyed lefties, and to plan their next assault on the bastions of tyranny and oppression.
But, fittingly enough, the closest I ever got to him was when I was almost run down by Olivia Chow first, and then Jack, freewheeling their bicycles one evening down a steep ravine (the old Bayview Avenue) opposite the Pottery Road bridge over the Don River.
As for the letter Jack Layton “wrote” with so much help, it is clearly designed to utilize his personal popularity to inspire emotional support for socialism and the New Democratic Party for decades to come.
He will become a powerful cult icon, as did John F. Kennedy and Tommy Douglas. Young people will be attracted by the artfully crafted mystique and the tragedy of his early death, rather than by any rational consideration of socialism and its manifest failings.
Which is just as well, in some respects. The NDP didn’t ascend to the dizzy heights of the Loyal Opposition by its own virtues, the Liberals imploded and left the Conservatives and NDP to gorge themselves on the carcass.
And when the next election comes around, there is a good chance the NDP will either find itself back in the political wilderness, or morphed into a Quebec-dominated party forced to spend most of its time and effort on appeasing La Belle Province rather than carrying on the good fight against capitalist greed and privilege.
Either way, this is not a good time to be a socialist in Canada.
Layton’s death turns into a thoroughly public spectacle
Christie Blatchford: August 22nd, 2011
By the accounts of those who knew him best and loved him most, if there was a truly private side of Jack Layton, it was but a sliver of the man who happily lived virtually his entire adult life in the public eye and who was a 24/7 politician who was always on.
Yes, his death at 61 was sad and too soon; yes, he made an enormous contribution to his party and a significant one to Canada (though I would quibble with NDP MP Libby Davies’ characterization that “He gave his life for this country”); yes, he fought a brave battle against cancer, as, mind you, does just about anyone who has it; and yes, he was a likeable, agreeable, smiley man.
Yet what was truly singular about him was how consumed by politics he was and how publicly, yet comfortably, he lived.
How fitting that his death should have been turned into such a thoroughly public spectacle, where from early morn Monday, television anchors donned their most funereal faces, producers dug out the heavy organ music, reporters who would never dream of addressing any other politician by first name only were proudly calling him “Jack” and even serious journalists like Evan Solomon of the CBC repeatedly spoke of the difficulty “as we all try to cope” with the news of Mr. Layton’s death.
By mid-day, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper had offered a few warm words about Mr. Layton’s death and rued that their oft-talked-about jam session had never happened, Mr. Solomon even expressed sniping surprise that “Jack Layton wasn’t the sole focus” of the Prime Minister’s remarks.
Mr. Harper, who clearly had not spent the day watching the national broadcaster and thus was unaware that the NDP Leader’s death was the only story of note, had gone on to mention the families of the 12 people (including six-year-old Cheyenne Eckalook; now there’s someone who died far too young) who perished in the Arctic plane crash on Saturday and the tumultuous events in Libya.
The PM in fact was one of a very few voices of reason to be found on the airwaves — he remembered Mr. Layton kindly and with evident regard, but he had perspective and did not fawn.
And what to make of that astonishing letter, widely hailed as Mr. Layton’s magnificent from-the-grave cri de coeur?
It was extraordinary, though it is not Mr. Solomon’s repeated use of that word that makes it so.
Rather, it’s remarkable because it shows what a canny, relentless, thoroughly ambitious fellow Mr. Layton was. Even on Saturday, two days before he died, he managed to keep a gimlet eye on all the campaigns to come.
The letter is full of such sophistry as “We can restore our good name in the world,” as though it is a given Canada has somehow lost that, bumper-sticker slogans of the “love is better than anger” ilk and ruthlessly partisan politicking (“You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together with progressive-minded Canadians across the country,” he said in the section meant for Quebecers).
The letter is vainglorious too.
Who thinks to leave a 1,000-word missive meant for public consumption and released by his family and the party mid-day, happily just as Mr. Solomon and his fellows were in danger of running out of pap? Who seriously writes of himself, “All my life I have worked to make things better”?
The letter was first presented as Mr. Layton’s last message to Canadians, as something written by him on his deathbed; only later was it more fully described as having been “crafted” with party president Brian Topp, Mr. Layton’s chief of staff Anne McGrath and his wife and fellow NDP MP Olivia Chow.
Mr. Layton wrote it, as Mr. Topp told Mr. Solomon, “in his beautiful, energy-retrofitted house” in downtown Toronto. These people never stop.
The reaction to his death — it was still shocking how fast it came, despite his cadaverous appearance in late July when he stepped down, temporarily it was hoped — was universally described as unique and of course, the day’s adjective, as extraordinary.
Held out as evidence of Canadians’ great love for Mr. Layton were the makeshift memorials of flowers, notes that appeared at his Toronto constituency office and on Parliament Hill, and in condolences in social media.
In truth, none of that is remotely unusual, or spontaneous, but rather the norm in the modern world, and it has been thus since Princess Diana died, the phenomenon now fed if not led online. People the planet over routinely weep for those they have never met and in some instances likely never much thought about before; what once would have been deemed mawkish is now considered perfectly appropriate.
Certainly, Canadians liked Mr. Layton, but the public over-the-top nature of such events — by fans for lost celebrities they never met, by television personalities for those they interviewed once for 10 minutes, by the sad and lost for the dead — make it if not impossible then difficult to separate the mourning wheat from the mourning chaff. His loss — his specific loss and his specific accomplishments — are thus diminished.
His greatest moments — the bravest and most admirable — came during his fight with prostate cancer, the subsequent hip surgery and his most recent battle with the cancer, whose nature he never disclosed except to say it was new, which killed him.
He must have been in pain; he may have been afraid. Yet again and again, waving the cane that became in his clever hands an asset, he campaigned tirelessly.
In the end, it was Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, a family physician whose Toronto practice once counted Mr. Layton’s family as patients, who said it best and with a physician’s sorrowful pragmatism: “As family doctors, we don’t have magic wands…this street fighter lost to the body betrayal.”
See original here.