08.25.2012 12:00 AM

In Sunday’s Sun: in Jack’s name

Jack Layton was a great fellow. He was kindly, he was successful, he had a keen mind. He was much loved by his supporters and much admired by his political adversaries. That much we know.

It’s not possible to know what he thinks about things that happened after he died, however.

For example, it’s impossible to know what Layton would feel about the willingness of those in his party — some, not all, but enough — to exploit his name for partisan advantage. He’s been gone a year, so we’ll never really know what he thinks about what has been done after the fact.

What has been done in Jack Layton’s name by New Democrats — again, not all of them, but enough of them — is pretty … well, you decide for yourself.

Take Dan Harris, for example (please). For now, he’s the NDP MP for Scarborough-Southwest. In last year’s Ontario provincial election, Harris recorded a robocall for Bruce Budd, a Toronto-area candidate for the provincial NDP. In the recorded message received by voters, Harris said:

“This has been a difficult time for New Democrats everywhere with the incredible loss of our leader, Jack Layton. We shared sadness but we also shared a sense of renewed commitment, inspiration and hope. It’s up to us now! In just a few short weeks, we have an opportunity to meet Jack’s challenge. This is our chance to move forward in Ontario! Bruce Budd is your provincial NDP candidate here in Scarborough Southwest. Please join me in supporting Bruce!”

Harris’ robocall then went on to peddle — wait for it — NDP lawn signs. Presumably acceptance of a lawn sign was a way to express “commitment, inspiration and hope” and “meet Jack’s challenge.”


  1. This is a letter from Laurier…a few short months before his death. Too similar to be a coincidence IMHO:

    “As for you who stand today on the threshold of life, with a long horizon open before you for a long career of usefulness to your native land, if you will permit me, after a long life, I shall remind you that already many problems rise before you: problems of race division, problems of creed differences, problems of economic conflict, problems of national duty and national aspiration.

    Let me tell you that for the solution of these problems you have a safe guide, an unfailing light if you remember that FAITH IS BETTER THAN DOUBT AND LOVE IS BETTER THAN HATE. Banish hate and doubt from your life. Let your souls be ever open to the promptings of faith and the gentle influence of brotherly love. Be adamant against the haughty, be gentle and kind to the weak. Let your aim and purpose, in good report or ill, in victory or defeat, be so to live, so to strive, so to serve as to do your part to raise even higher the standard of life and living…”

    – Sir Wilfrid Laurier November 1918

    Perhaps it’s time to ask Brian Topp, who helped write Jack’s letter (or rewrite Laurier’s) about this!!!! If they build a statue to Layton and put a quote from Jack’s letter the LEAST they can do is reference Laurier as the original source of inspiration….I think enough time has passed that the press can point this out now.

    • Warren says:

      They totally swiped it. No doubt about it.

      • AP says:

        I remember when Bob Rae first ran for Liberal Party leader he invoked the same passage.

        In general many NDP supporters keep calling Jack Layton “our leader” with such reverential frequency that every once in a while I have to remind myself that they’re talking about a deceased Leader of the Opposition and not the deceased dear leader Kim Il Jong.

        I’m have no doubt that in die course NDP partisans will be slapping WWJD bumper stickers on their cars.

        I’ve also had enough of people referring to him as “Jack” like they were neighbours or something. We had friends over a while back who are insane NDP partisans and at one point our friend said “since Jack died” and it took me a moment to realize she was referring to Jack Layton and not some friend of hers. Creepy.

        After Pierre Trudeau died I don’t recall one person — Liberal partisan or not — having the stones to call him anything other than Pierre Trudeau. Can you imagine anyone saying, “ever since Pierre brought about the Charter of Rights,” or ” when Pierre campaigned in the Quebec referendum,” or better yet, “when Pierre laid a smack down on Lucien Bouchard in Maclean’s”?

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Did Laurier use “hate” as a noun?

  2. M5SLIB says:

    With the risk of sounding like a douchebag, I don’t think Layton would have minded at all. Obviously, I have no personal knowledge of Layton, but when he was alive I wasn’t his biggest fan. I’ve recently kind of silenced myself in that regard for obvious reasons, but I used to describe him as a used car salesman. The way I see it is that Layton was the first to start exploiting his own death with his final letter. Perhaps even earlier on the campaign trial, who knows. The letter was filled with political opportunism, and whatever peace and respect one normally feels is owed to the deceased was tainted in Layton’s case because of the letter.

    What I similarly don’t understand is how Jack is such a hero now. I surmise the people giving him that designation are either fierce partisans or fair-weather fans who know nothing about Layton. To put it Frankly, this guy’s biggest achievement was losing an election – he just lost it “better” than his party had ever done. He’s no Joe Clark, John Turner, Kim Campbell, Paul Martin – regardless of their performance in the post, they at least became Prime Ministers.

  3. dave says:

    Before we get back to the accusation agains the Conservatives of continuous campaigning, let’s take time for the NDP to make political hay out of what they can make of Jack Layton’s work and passing, and for their rivals, the Libs, to slang the NDP for doing so. Election 2015 is here. Partisan anything sells soap.

  4. Dan says:

    Looking forward to your highly principled stance to never invoke Pierre Trudeau.

    Because if there’s one thing the Liberal party is known for, it’s principles.

    • Michael Bussiere says:

      Furthermore, not once did the Liberal Party refer to Trudeau in the election campaign of 2000 which took place shortly after his death and unprecedented public memorial. And he was PM for 15 years, not to mention everything else he stands for in Canadian history.

      I don’t think the NDP realizes that the more they milk this, the smaller they look, and it speaks volumes to the militancy in their ranks which has always been the one bit turn-off of that party.

    • Dan says:

      Speaking of manipulation…

      Remember when the Liberal party promised to cut the GST?

      Remember when the Liberal party promised us Child Care… in 1993?

      Remember when the Liberal party signed Kyoto and didn’t pass a single law to do anything about it?

      Remember when the Liberal party slashed and burned all kinds of services… and then turned around and criticized the Conservatives for doing the same thing?

      But we’ll let the voters decide what’s “manipulation”.

      A lot of people voted for Jack, and people admired him because he walked the damn walk. You won’t be able to guilt people into forgetting him.

      • CM says:

        Remember when Jack Layton chose love over anger and accused Paul Martin of killing homeless people in Canada?

        Remember when Jack Layton chose hope over fear and remade the NDP into the federal apologist party for Quebec separatism?

        Remember when Jack Layton chose optimism over despair and lived in subsidized housing while he and his wife worked as Toronto city counsellors?

        Yeah he walked the damn walk all right.

  5. Dave says:

    Jack in his early days came across as a stereotypical camera loving, camera hogging politician that we will remember for one glorious campaign. That his memory has turned into a tasteless promotion of Jack himself is at least consistent.

  6. SJS says:

    I am a Liberal and the Dippers generally frustrate me. I’m inspired to post a comment because I just realized yesterday that the Toronto Ferry Terminal has been renamed after St Jack. Is that it? Or, are we all waiting for a rename of something like the DVP? I would suspect so, as soon as the Dippers get back some local leverage. But, re your article Warren, a few things:

    1- I disagree Warren and think political parties should be able to leverage whatever they think could work. The more interesting point is as noted above- it just makes them seem small and long-term, will dilute their brand. It’s so interesting to me to see how Jack’s legend developed though- I remember seeing him at FCM and knowing then that he was a complete opportunist (but that’s often just what comes with the field) but when he ran against Blakie he came to the table then with no ideas– he looked great though.

    2- Why don’t the media talk about him and the Dippers not having come clean about how bad his cancer was during that last campaign? He shut the media down early on the subject with his comment re dropping his pants to show them his virility but then, as the campaign wore on, they seemed to be Toronto-based with the campaign plane almost every weeknight. I know this because my company’s aircraft was parked beside the NDP plane at the Pearson private terminal for the campaign and I was flying most days. Why wasn’t it news that he was getting aggressive treatment throughout the writ? I saw just slight mention of that around his funeral but very little time was spent on it- maybe Coyne brought it up but it didn’t get the attention it deserved. You had this whole crush thing getting him seats in Quebec, would those people have voted NDP if they knew he was so close to death? We’ll see next election.

    3- Similar to this theme—why don’t people talk about the plagiarism of the Laurier speech as mentioned above? I think soon after Jack’s death I got a letter from the LPC’s Laurier club where they quoted that, but didn’t get all political about it (because it would have been so touchy then) but that’s news! It continues to shock me that he managed to develop this legend yet if you look at it, his legacy is really that he got the Conservatives elected and he designed the round bike racks in the City of Toronto (seriously, he did that, which is neat).

    The Dippers generally haven’t come up with a worthwhile contribution to the policy debate in a generation—they are the party of opportunism (remember their criticism of Dion’s Greenshift?), representing a dying amalgam of organized labour and progressives who haven’t clued in yet that the ideas are being developed by the Greens and if they ever really want to influence policy, they need to be inside the tent with the Liberals. Those that are left with the Dippers would love to chalk sidewalks, play guitar and sing songs about Jack while Harper consolidates power and changes the country. Thanks Jack, I’ll think about you en route to the Island on the ferry.

    • CM says:

      What’s idiotic, dude is comparing Laurier and Layton and concluding they’re similar. To paraphrase Jules from Pulp Fiction, Laurier and Layton “ain’t in the same league. They ain’t even playing the same fucking sport.”

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      What rub & tug did Laurier get caught in?

  7. Billy Boy says:

    I am bstewart@gmail.com and I want your spam!

  8. Patrick says:

    This string is trash in general. Everyone has transitioned from an irrelevant but respectful debate to partisan talking points.

    Liberals milked the shit out of Trudeau’s demise, so it clearly is with precedent. Any movement, anywhere, would campaign to some extent on the legacy of their fallen leader.

    Liberal false righteousness on this issue is laughable, insincere and frankly, off-putting. Get back to losing your last three non-PEI Governments, losers and let the guy rest in peace.

    Next topic.

    • Pete says:

      Patrick,So plarigism by your guy is ok and because he’s dead we should not bring up the fact he cheated on his way to the pearly gates.

      I would suggest that qualifies you to be an AH. Not a lib one or a dipper one……….you could be a CPC one though but I think you are a true dipper; blinders on all the time.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Tell us, oh Patrick, where Trudeau’s death was used in that way.

      And let’s keep in mind that Trudeau patriated the constitution and fought separatists, while the NDP said they would not capitalize on Layton and he eschewed The Clarity Act and recruited separatists to run for his party.

  9. J.A. says:

    much as I recognize that Jack Layton was a quick witted chap whose colloquial French language style fit right in with Quebec voters, I do feel very uncomfortable about this use of “Jack” and his image and (non-original) supposed last letter as promotion tools. The CBC movie about his later life is too much too soon. I agree with Warren’s article. it is difficult not to be cynical.

  10. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Conservatives spend their time looking for ways to increase the size of their committed base. And if in need of a few laughs, they watch the opposition at work.

    The target is called CPC — not LPC or NDP. Concentrate the mind folks. Move toward merger sooner rather than later or relish in another Conservative government elected by default next time. Not a nice picture but a damned realistic one.

    All backbiting gets us in an unending stint on the opposition benches.

  11. Give me a break. Jack was a highly political person and made no apologies for it, with political objectives which included getting the NDP elected. In dying he appealed to his followers to change the world. He’d have been delighted if appeals to his memory got the NDP over the top into government–at least, as long as it resulted in the kinds of policies dear to his heart getting enacted. Don’t see what’s wrong with that.

  12. don craig says:

    a state funeral for a “great fellow”? the bar has been considerably lowered.

  13. Tom says:

    The life of the sitting leader of the official opposition party is celebrated on the anniversary of his death.

    I expected better from Liberals than this scummy muckraking. I will keep optimistic the Liberals will find their conscience and maybe some class again.

    The truth is the some Liberals are the ones exploiting his death for partisan gain. I see a blood thirst for Jack Layton in these comments and it’s disgusting.

  14. Tom says:

    You are blind to the hate and blood thirst many of your Lib commenters have used against Jack. I know you read comments to approve them.

    Your article screams Lib desperation in the guise of NDP chastisement. This is phoney outrage over honouring a leader who has passed away way too young, shortly after becoming the official opposition.
    Of course the party is going to use his legacy. It would be wrong not to use it.

    And these morons screaming about not knowing the seriousness of his cancer would now be saying he used it to win with sympathy had he disclosed it during the campaign. It’s appalling.

  15. Tom says:

    I’m a pious, humourless, Dipper hack.

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