In Canada, the news of the day was Jack Layton, leader of the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and head of the NDP party, who died of cancer at the age of 61 on Monday, and whose funeral was held today in Toronto.
Unlike thousands of others, I didn't make it downtown, but I did watch it on television--the funny anecdotes and touching stories from his children, the fantastic eulogy from Stephen Lewis, and some wonderful words from Reverend Brent Hawkes, who delivered my favourite line of the service:
"If the Olympics made us prouder Canadians, maybe Jack's life can make us better Canadians."
The CN Tower and Niagara Falls are both lit orange tonight--the colour of the NDP--in Jack Layton's honour. It's an honour he more than earned.
scrollgirl has collected some photos of Toronto City Hall that are worth looking at.
The NDP have traditionally been democratic socialists. Under Layton, they became somewhat less socialist than they once were, but they remain by far the most left wing mainstream party in the country. For my entire life, they've been Canada's third party: the voice of our conscience in Parliament who nipped at the heels of the Liberals and Conservatives as the two of them swapped roles as Government and Opposition, each taking their turn while the NDP kept them from straying too far to the right. If there's one party whose members can genuinely be trusted to be driven by the public good, who genuinely want to work for the people, it's the members of the NDP. Because if your main concern is power, you join the Liberals or Conservatives--not that little third party.
And so it went until last spring, when the NDP took an unprecedented numbers of seats--especially in Québec, where the left has typically voted with the Bloc Québécois--and managed to vault ahead of the Liberals to claim the job of official Opposition for the first time in Canadian history. This was largely due to Jack Layton: his political skills, his organization skills, and his belief in the NDP as a national party. He'll never been Prime Minister now, but he has left an amazing legacy: evidence that a left wing party can rise to power in Canada.
I spent the week in Maryland at a workshop--I first got news of Layton's death via assorted text messages as I was driving down there--and so ended up missing most of the (apparently extensive) news coverage. Instead, I followed it on Twitter, tracking #jacklayton all week via TweetDeck. It's a fascinating and probably unbalanced way to cover a national event. A bit repetitive at times, but so much genuine emotion. I teared up more than once on Tuesday as I read the reactions to his death.
Images of Nathan Phillips Square @ Toronto City Hall
An interactive display of the first set of chalk messages at Toronto City Hall
Multi-lingual messages at Toronto City Hall.
The reason I started voting
Quotes from the funeral.
The crowd outside of Roy Thompson Hall during the funeral
Jack Layton's political history
Le Bon Jack - Michael Valpy on Jack Layton's legacy
Ian Welsh and some earlier comments about Jack Layton's days on Toronto City Council
Comments on attempts to tarnish the idea of public service
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