Oh Jack. What now?
There are a lot of people more eloquent than me expressing their feelings about this tragically unfair loss to Canadian politics, and summarizing the remarkable career of this mould-breaking politician.
My way is to keep busy instead. So in that light, allow me to look back and look forward in the Pundits' Guide kind of way.
Jack Layton's federal political career began in 1993 – the NDP's worst federal election in my lifetime – when he ran in the old Toronto riding of Rosedale, placing fourth and earning 11% of the vote, then not even enough for a candidate rebate.
Jack ran again in 1997, placing second, this time in the riding he would go on to win as party leader in 2004, Toronto-Danforth. He was re-elected there for the third time this past May with 60% of the vote.
Jack Layton's Federal Electoral History
|1997 GE||Toronto – Danforth||2||13,903||32%|
|2004 GE||Toronto – Danforth||1||22,198||46%|
|2006 GE||Toronto – Danforth||1||24,412||48%|
|2008 GE||Toronto – Danforth||1||20,323||45%|
|2011 GE||Toronto – Danforth||1||29,235||60%|
In 2003, Layton won the party's first one-member-one-vote leadership convention on the first ballot with 53.5% of the vote, placing ahead of such party stalwarts as Bill Blaikie, Lorne Nystrom and Joe Comartin, but also Québec newcomer Pierre Ducasse. His leadership campaign became a blueprint for his strategic approach as party leader: he caught people's attention with a surprising endorsement from former leader Ed Broadbent, signed up thousands of new party members, and continued to phone canvass identified supporters of his opponents right up till the last week of the campaign.
Layton promised his party a 10-year plan for Québec during that campaign, and the fulfillment of that promise will be remembered as one of his greatest accomplishments, though his record as leader was stellar by any measure.
So, what now, Jack? While we were waiting for his Letter to Canadians to be released, the airtime was filled with recollections of his life in politics, some of them warm and personal, and some the warmed-over sentimentality of those who smeared him short months ago. The punditocracy who completely missed the strategy he was developing and the possibilities for the NDP, will now try and write the party's future, no doubt with plenty of help from its opponents.
For one thing, there will be a by-election in his downtown Toronto seat, that could be called as early as 11 days from the day the Speaker notifies the Chief Electoral Officer of the vacancy, but must be called within at least 180 days.
Then there will be a leadership convention to schedule and conduct, while parallel contests unfold in two other political parties, and the coverage of those contests will become a major focus of this website going forward.
Layton recommended the NDP leadership race be conducted early in the new year, which would place it after the scheduled Bloc Québécois leadership campaign this fall (assuming it's not further postponed), and prior to the planned Liberal Party leadership campaign in 2013.
But, for now, let's all try and remember the challenge he's given us, whatever our political stripe:
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.