Here we were but three short months ago. Part of the population was lamenting the destruction of the Reds, others were celebrating it while their blue car cruised on by. There was another segment of the population though that had finally had a chance to step forward and tell the country that they were here and they would be heard. Social and political outcasts, the disenfranchised and long-time left wingers all banded together even if their voice in Parliament would end up being mostly formal. What they exhibited was shout loud enough to turn that formality into a compelling argument that the NDP performed an almost perfect Hail-Mary.
The 2011 election in Canada was certainly polarizing, the middle was completely decimated all while the right was about to achieve something monumental, the first Conservative majority in 20 years. What most media outlets, private citizens and even politicos weren’t paying attention to was the swelling support for the NDP. For many it was a protest movement, for others it was a lifelong dream of being able to see their horse finally become a contender in a race to which it was always considered the long-shot
The words and platform hadn’t changed much in 10 years but finally the message had caught on; the audience was listening to a message they had heard for years but this time it connected with a public that was merely looking for honesty and integrity.
Out of Ontario, out of Quebec, out of the East, out of the West, the waves started rolling, within the month of May the NDP went from an expected distant third and became the little engine that could. For the first time in years a campaign was being run on a different platform, positive honesty. Leader Jack Layton and the NDP MP’s message was reminiscent of Obama’s winning presidential campaign and people latched on for exactly the same reason – hope.
The post-election aftermath was unbelievable for many, but for the NDP it was a day they had fought for even harder for than the Conservatives gaining a majority. They fought far harder than the floundering Liberals out-of-touch campaign. For the NDP though, the 2011 election was their chance, they fought to earn the respect of millions of voters and they accomplished, with gusto, what they had set out to do.
It was far different than the campaign of 2007, this time the message actually felt like it had gained the gravitas necessary to carry it through the homestretch as a winner. This time the Liberals had a leader that, while headstrong, seemed like a dinosaur in the political sphere. Canadians are traditionally slow to change and the Conservatives goal to become the ‘new centrists’ didn’t fool many former Liberal or small c voters. For a great number, their vote for the NDP in Election 2011 was a vote of reserved confidence in an unproven party with massive potential – a brilliant teenager given the helm of a Fortune 500.
And then it happened.
Riding high off the biggest win in the party’s history must have felt monumental, not quite mounting the tallest peak in the range but reaching heights as yet unseen by the NDP. Then the word came down just a few weeks later as the party was gearing up for that next hard climb, Layton’s moustachioed tenacity and fire-belly were subdued by another bout with cancer, this one far more serious than his first time around, it would only be a matter of 3 more weeks before he would succumb.
His passing leaves the Canadian political landscape starkly empty of fiery opposition; and a bold, revitalized party without strong leadership. For everything she has done for the NDP in the interim, Nycole Turmel is not a viable choice for a long-term leader. Layton truly was one of the biggest draws about the NDP and now they must attempt to find another great draw with the same personable charm, selfless attitude and honest integrity. It’s hard to find a leader that many citizens disagree with but still like.
That truly will be Layton’s legacy; the man that was just a few years too late but provided more for the country than some of our prior Prime Ministers. Layton may never have had the chance to lead the country even if he had lived many years longer, regardless of that fact he was one of the best opposition party leaders our country has ever had.
Rest well Jack, your work was not left incomplete but you will always be remembered as a great man.