With the death of Jack Layton, we have lost someone we could look to as a model of commitment to ideas and ideals. So few today can articulate a vision for Canada that transcends the short-term demands of politics and economics.
Jack was a man who lived his ideals. In Toronto, he was as green as they come, long before green came to mean a set of environmental assumptions. But Jack never forgot that justice and human rights were deeply embedded in issues of the environment. Today, too many of us act as if these are somehow separate, and so we are either environmentalists or workers for social justice. To Jack, they were a part of the same struggle for sustainable societies.
I didn't always agree with Jack, and I told him so. But he never held our disagreements against me or pouted. He had a vision and he was working to achieve it. Too many people get caught up in a little niche, and if one disagrees in any way, they are written off for not conforming to a party line. Jack wasn't like that.
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Now Canada is at a crossroads. The world has changed enormously in the past half century, and we seem to be caught up in the belief that the global economy is the very source of our well-being and identity. But the economy is a means to some other end, not an end in itself, and Jack understood that. As with great people like Tommy Douglas, he kept reminding us of what he stood for.
In my last letter to Jack, after he had announced that he was taking time to fight his cancer, I assured him that his legacy was already assured and it was a proud one. But, I told him, no great movement is dependent on one or a few people. I wanted him to rest assured that there were many Canadians who would take up his cause. I hope that was more than just my hope for the moment as I felt the pain of his potential loss. To honour Jack, we need to see many people ready to take on his vision and his work.