Taking It To The Street

Jack Layton's Last Gift May Be To Andrea Horwath

By Susanna Kelley

Susanna KelleyThe tributes have been written, the sad procession of the casket is finished its long journey, and the public mourning is over.  While many will grieve for months and years, and some, like his wife Olivia Chow, for a lifetime, Jack Layton's work, as was said so many times over the last week, will go on.

One of those responsible for carrying that torch is his friend and supporter, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath.

Ms. Horwath must now lead bruised provincial New Democrats into the Ontario election at its official start next week.

Weary they must feel.  All three parties, staff, activists and the rank and file have already been through an election this year - the federal contest in May.

But for New Democrats, so quickly after the euphoria of watching their hard work pay off with the party becoming the Official

Opposition, came the cruel blow of Layton's death.  

There are those who said when Mr. Layton died that Ms. Horwath would no longer be able to ride his victorious tails to electoral gains in October.

But Mr. Layton may have given another gift to his party even in death.  Here in his home province of Ontario, the massive outpouring of love and affection for him has raised the profile of the NDP in a positive way to a level not seen in over 20 years

Only twice in the province's history has the NDP reached such levels of public recognition.

In 1975, campaigning on rent controls, then leader Stephen Lewis lead the party to official opposition status in Ontario.

And in 1990, Bob Rae became the first NDP premier of Ontario.

When Mr. Rae's social contract broke collective agreements, that act split the NDP apart in Ontario for over 15 years.

Some unions, such as the CAW, abandoned the party because of it.  It took a generational change under Ms. Horwath to bring the party together again - although the CAW is still not back in the fold.

But Mr. Layton's death, with its televised eulogies by Stephen Lewis, his long-time press secretary Karl Belanger and Rev. Brent Hawkes, laid out the party's values and the policies for the huge numbers who watched on television or took part in the memorial.

And it is clear they struck a chord.  The observation by Globe and Mail columnist Adam Radwanski - that the adoration for Mr. Layton shows the public's hunger for inspirational leaders - is spot on.  People want hope.  They want to be inspired towards goodness, or what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."  It was that inspiration so recently that elected Barack Obama.

Sometimes politics is extremely complex.

But sometimes it is really very simple. 

Posted date : August 29, 2011
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