On the 22nd of August, a Monday, Jack Layton passed away. Although we knew it was coming (anyone who had payed attention to his quickly deterioriating condition could hardly hold out much hope for a recovery), we were not ready for it. Spontaneous outpouring of emotion – people crying in public spaces – isn’t normal in Canada, but it happened without apparent direction or organization all across Canada. In Toronto the improvised memorial was a wall at Toronto City Hall – a wall that was covered with chalk writing, covered in hopes, thanks, dreams, and longing.
That day and the week that followed it, culminating in his state funeral, were for those who experienced them nothing less than an event in Canadian history – an event where we recognized collectively what had been achieved, what was possible, and what was needed – and what possibilities for genuine hopefulness exist in a political system of which it is easy to become distraught. For me, and for many others who I spoke with, who passed away that monday was a great political leader – a person of principles and compromise, and emphatically not a tyrant and a sellout of the opportunist’s creed. His passing nearly – and the emphasis is on nearly because I haven’t done it – motivated me to join the NDP.