Remembering Jack Layton

No matter which part of the political spectrum you may fall in, it’s likely that you held some admiration for the late NDP leader Jack Layton.

That national admiration soared to new heights this past spring when Layton’s party notched official opposition status in the House of Commons.

Under the inspirational direction of Layton, who didn’t let his health issues slow him down for a second, the party saw unprecedented growth in the May 2 election. Layton had come to a point he probably could hardly believe himself, and was gearing up for a busy September in Ottawa.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Layton passed away at his Toronto home early Monday morning after fighting cancer. He was 61.

In death, we often see aspects of a person’s character that we may not have paid as much attention to in life. For years, Layton was always working so hard to break new ground in Ottawa; straining to see his party attract new members and really make a dent in the federal political system.

He was always fighting for change but did it typically in a respectful, eloquent way. He was always one Canadians could count on to bring up the necessary questions – he wasn’t afraid to challenge the powers that be and frankly speak his mind.

No matter what his views on any topic, Layton was absolutely passionate about Canada and its people. And ultimately, he wanted the best for Canada with no one left behind. He had a heart for those often left on the sidelines, and although many disagreed with his politics it was great to see his ability to connect with Canadians of all kinds.

This passion has never been more visible than in the very personal letter he wrote before his death. Layton addresses members of his party, the caucus, Quebecers, young Canadians and all Canadians. He writes about how grateful he is for the support he has received, and to younger citizens he talks about his commitment over the years to making things better.

He also encouraged Canadians to give his party careful consideration in the years to come. But perhaps what will most resonate with people is how he ended his letter with words that are so utterly inspiring and heartfelt. It’s a message that will always be part of his legacy for everyone.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”