I never met the man personally, but I felt as though I’d known him for years. I can honestly say I’ve never cried about a man I’ve never met before, but then again Jack Layton was no ordinary man. When he passed away I felt as though I’d lost a close friend. For the first time in my life I wept over the death of a man I had never met before, but one whose contribution to public service was so profound.
Jack Layton was no ordinary politician. Unlike the many faces in Canadian politics Jack represented the most marginalized and vulnerable people in Canada. It is undeniable that Canada is relatively egalitarian. However, the decisions made in politics are often advocated for the benefit of you and I, but are never implemented as they are advocated. The interests of the private sector take precedence over you and me. This is more prevalent in the United States, but is now growing in Canada. For the time being things are all right, passable, but they could be much better. Jack was different. Jack wanted a Canada that was more than passable, but a Canada that was truly remarkable. Jack wanted to make Canada a more inclusive country for all Canadians, words that came form Jack in his last days and words that are backed by 30 years of public service.
Stephen Lewis so eloquently described Jack Layton’s final farewell as a manifesto of social democracy. Indeed it was. Canada, at its very core, has tried to be a more inclusive society. Even with a Conservative majority government, Canadians seem more connected with actions of the heart. Our public healthcare system is one of those institutions that Canadians hold dear.
At times Canada has veered from its course, as politicians and policy makers stray away; trying to plant those social roots into a conservative soil and it takes much like oil and water. The sidewalk revolution is a reminder of where we as Canadians stand. It stands as an expression of grief toward the loss of a great human being. But it also serves as a testament of our conviction toward the ideals of social democracy and the man who brought us back to our roots.
As Torontonians our sidewalk art and makeshift memorials defied the Ford’s Cultural Revolution attack on “street art”. In my opinion it acted as a potent reminder just where the heart of Toronto lies. Those who paid homage to Jack, as he lay in state at City Hall, should also serve as reminder as to who we are as Canadians and Torontonians. Lead with our hearts, never give up and we too can make the world a better place
Jack, as reverend Bennett so aptly described, “has passed on the torch. It is up to us now to make a difference”. We must finish what Jack started. We must use the power of democracy before us to continue what Jack set out to create. There will be no time like the now to act on the behalf of everyone.