8.25.2011

jack layton memorials are more than grief: they're an affirmation of the ndp's vision

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square

The enormous outpouring of emotion on Jack Layton's passing continues unabated. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are leaving messages and flowers, and making donations to the Broadbent Institute. Millions more are writing tributes online, through the NDP website, Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

The love and appreciation, the loss and grief that we're expressing and witnessing are not only for Layton the man. Jack was loved, we know that. For sure, we found him personally engaging - determined, hopeful, charismatic, sincere, caring. And for many Canadians, it was Jack's personality and style that first drew them in. But after that, it was Jack's vision - the NDP's ideas and platform - that kept them interested.

Let's reflect for a moment on the results of the election of May 2, 2011.

We know that 5,832,401 million Canadians voted for the Conservative Party, an increase of slightly less than two percent (1.96%) over the 2008 election. Support for the Conservative platform remains static, with about 24% of eligible voters choosing Stephen Harper's vision of Canada.

We know that 4,508,474 Canadians voted for the New Democrats, a surge that translated into the party's unprecedented gain of 67 seats and status as Official Opposition.

We also know that in 122 ridings won by either the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, the NDP came in second. In many of these ridings, the final tallies were very close: in 14 ridings won by the Conservatives with the NDP finishing second, the difference was a total only 6,000 votes. And the NDP finished below second in only five percent of ridings nationally.

The punditocracy, at a loss to explain their failure to predict, immediately declared that a vote for the NDP was really a vote for None Of The Above. Quebec voters, especially, were said to be suffering from mass ignorance. These voters apparently understood that they didn't like the Conservatives, the Liberals or the Bloc. And then, not knowing what else to do, they shrugged their collective shoulders: oh well, I don't know what this party's about, but Jack Layton seems like a good guy, I'll roll the dice on these unknowns. Along with Quebeckers, millions of young voters suffered from a similar ignorance.

What condescension. What bullshit. As I wrote when Parliament returned in June:
Why would voters understand they didn't want Liberals or Conservatives, but somehow not understand what the NDP stands for? Did Jack Layton not campaign his heart out? Did the NDP not run ads announcing its platform? Was Michael Ignatieff so much more visible than Jack Layton during the 2011 campaign? No, no, no.
The "none of the above" explanation was an attempt to dismiss the left alternative, to deny what had become blatantly obvious: millions of Canadians wanted change, and they wanted change from the left.

Right now, the ongoing display of love and grief for Jack Layton is a reminder of those four and a half million votes. Read the messages. We are not only missing and remembering Jack, we are thanking Jack - thanking him for his vision, for the NDP's vision of a more humane, just, equal, inclusive society.

Seems to me the best way to honour Jack Layton is to work for that vision.

[More links to Layton memorials are in comments here; more photos from Jackman Chiu here; thanks to Impudent Strumpet for the tip on Chiu.]

27 comments:

Skinny Dipper said...

I don't know the exact route, but hopefully people will be able to express their thanks along the 401 as Jack Layton's motorcade goes by. Does anyone know the exact route in Toronto?

James said...

The City of Toronto website has a gallery of the Nathan Philips Square tributes up.

Jae/Jennie said...

Here's Edmonton's two cents' worth.

allan said...

We know that 5,832,401 million Canadians voted for the Conservative Party, an increase of slightly less than two percent (1.96%) over the 2008 election.

Elections Canada reports that Conservatives received 5,209,069 votes in 2008. Wouldn't the Cons' increase of 623,332 votes to 5,832,401 be an 11% increase?

And isn't the NDP's increase from 2,515,288 in 2008 to 4,508,474 something like 43%? They had 2.5 million, then got nearly another 2 million!

(Note: Elections Canada does not have similar totals for 2011, so I used your numbers (which are the same as what is cited at Wikipedia (and elsewhere, no doubt. Wiki also has a 1.96% swing for the Cons. The NDP's swing was 12.44%!)

What am I doing wrong?

laura k said...

Dipper, you've probably already seen this, but CBC.ca says: A procession will take Layton's casket from Toronto City Hall to Roy Thomson Hall sometime after 11 a.m. Saturday. The hearse will be escorted by Toronto police on horseback. Specific details on the exact route and route to come.

A, it's been a while since I actually ran the numbers, although when I did it originally, it did work out. It's possible the vote total changed since then. Actual vote totals do shift in the weeks after the election - although probably not enough to move something from 2% to 11%! I'll look at it later, but maybe someone else has some info before then.

Sean Fordyce said...

Allan the reason the 43% and the 12% are both correct is the swing of 12% was of the total electorate and the 43% was the percentage increase from the smaller base of NDP support.

laura k said...

Sean, in my post I have the Conservatives as increasing their total votes by about 2% from 2008. I believe that's what Allan is asking about.

John F said...

The Bloc has always been socially progressive. For young Quebeckers disenchanted with separatism, the NDP was a perfect fit. Having Jack Layton as leader helped, but I always felt the Quebec vote was about the party's policies.

As for their performance in the rest of Canada: sorry pundits, but this nation is moving left. For instance, same-sex marriage went from unthinkable to controversial to fact in a generation. In another generation, the number of people who don't accept it will be equal to the number that don't accept women's suffrage.

laura k said...

The Bloc has always been socially progressive. For young Quebeckers disenchanted with separatism, the NDP was a perfect fit. Having Jack Layton as leader helped, but I always felt the Quebec vote was about the party's policies.

That's a very good point, John F. Just as I was reading your comment, I had the CBC News on TV (waiting for baseball game to start). A man who came out to pay respects to Layton's funeral procession as it dipped into Quebec said, "I used to vote separatist, but Layton and the NDP gave me hope for a new relationship between Quebec and Canada." (Of course he said "...gave me 'ope...")

James said...

We're just back from swimming with the dogs. On the way over, we paced Layton's procession on the 401 for a few minutes.

I wish I had been on my bike...

impudent strumpet said...

What's interesting in a pleasant surprise sort of way is how readily Jack Layton's getting honours and tributes beyond what is required by protocol. Stephen Harper ordered a state funeral before anyone could even start a facebook group asking him to do so. An hour after his death was announced, every flag I passed on my way to work was half-mast. The idea of turning the CN Tower orange went through ridiculously quickly. Even that photo gallery of the chalk on the City of Toronto website is outside the scope of what the City usually does when a former councillor dies.

Usually to make these kinds of things happen, you need a minimum of a well-organized petition that receives some media attention. But here, so many parties just saw what was important and went ahead and did it.

laura k said...

I wish I had been on my bike...

That would have been very fitting. Nice you saw the procession, though.

I finagled a half-day off to attend the funeral. A contingent from the war resisters campaign will be in the spillover area.

laura k said...

how readily Jack Layton's getting honours and tributes beyond what is required by protocol.

Yes, good observation. That's why it really feels like it's coming from the heart, a spontaneous outpouring.

In Harper's case, I'm guessing, more a smart political move in recognition of what would be in other people's hearts, knowing it's better to look gracious and magnanimous - but it has the same effect.

I'm just assuming that Stephen Harper doesn't actually have a heart.

laura k said...

Christie Blatchford could have taken her cue from the federal Conservatives and just laid low. But that wouldn't have made her a headline.

OK, that's my only Blatchford comment.

laura k said...

Derrick O'Keefe: Jack's last letter calls forth the best in us

James said...

A great tribute: a Jack Layton ghost bike.

allan said...

how often has a party leader died unexpectedly while in office?

laura k said...

A great tribute: a Jack Layton ghost bike.

I heard there will be a bicycle procession en route to the funeral, all cyclists invited. What a beautiful idea.

They've announced more overflow areas for the funeral, at St Andrew's Church and in the CBC lobby, in addition to Picaud (Metro) Square. I have a feeling now matter how many spaces there are, it won't be enough.

James said...

how often has a party leader died unexpectedly while in office?

I could only find two federal leaders, both Prime Ministers:

- Sir John A. Macdonald died in office, of a stroke in 1891 (during his second go-round as PM)
- Sir John Thompson, heart attack, 1894

I checked the Wikipedia pages for the leadership history of the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Bloc.

laura k said...

I wish if Layton had to go, he would have been on that short list with those PMs. We'll never know if that would have come to pass.

Of course the NDP may still be the future government.

John F said...

James - According to this CBC article, it was Wilfrid Laurier.

James said...

According to this CBC article, it was Wilfrid Laurier.

Yup -- I had missed his stint as leader of the opposition when checking the Wikipedia page.

James said...

The story behind the Nathan Phillips Square memorial.

laura k said...

James, thanks! Shared and tagged you.

James said...

Photos from the service:

National Post
Globe & Mail

James said...

And Stephen Lewis's eulogy.

laura k said...

I thought Lewis's eulogy was great. I was also really moved by Michael Layton's and Sarah Layton's remarks.