Transcending partisan politics, for me as a regular Canadian, Jack Layton’s true legacy was that he always reminded me of the better angels in all of us

When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are.

Richard M. Nixon (looking at a portrait of John F. Kennedy)

As the news of former NDP Leader Jack Layton’s passing hit the airwaves earlier today, the testimony as to the magnitude of his impact of his life extended well beyond the success he and his party enjoyed in the most recent Canadian federal election,when the NDP won the largest number of seats in their history, and in the process became for the very first time the Official Opposition party.

Jack Layton, (July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011)

What was even more impressive with the 67 seat increase upon which their surprising accession in terms of house representation was achieved, was the fact that 59 of those seats were won in the Province of Quebec where, in another first, the ever present Bloc Québécois lost official party status.  No small feat as both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties (the equivalent of the Democrats and Republicans respectively for my American readers), have struggled to gain any significant traction in the past few elections.

One cannot help but wonder what, if any influence, Layton’s coming from the rural community of Hudson, Quebec had to do with the small town values that were reflected in his socially oriented views centered around family and community.  Perhaps it is in Hudson, which boasts a harmonious blend of French and English residents, that the origins of the NDP’s shocking success can be found.  In short, Jack Layton spoke to and for the common Canadian, both French and English, in a most uncommon fashion that appealed to our better angels and the hope that we could shed the shackles of political silos and societal differences, to focus on the common good for everyone.

Hudson, Quebec

In this regard, and like the comparison Nixon made between himself and JFK, Layton was the very light or conscientious compass that showed us where we as Canadians are today, and where we can be, where we should be as a people and as a nation.

Few politicians can claim the ubiquitous influence and ultimately the appeal that Layton brought to the political forum in Canada.  The integrity of his purpose and the energy of his commitment will be something that I as an everyday Canadian will always remember, and will sorrily miss.

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