Remembering Jack

Jack Layton will be remembered as a fighter. From his first political steps as a young man to the amazing surge of the federal NDP in this year’s spring election to his fight with cancer he always embraced the struggle.

It was this tenacity that endeared him to people all over Canada. To many he was simply known as Jack and in Vancouver on Monday night some five hundred people gathered at the Art Gallery in a vigil for him.

It was a beautiful event with NDP activists and supporters holding candles. I held a CUPE flag which drifted gently in the evening breeze. It was fitting that after the day’s heavy rains the clouds cleared. As candles glowed people talked of Jack and grieved. I chatted with an old friend – we knew each from our activism with the BC Health Coalition. Our interaction, just one of many such conversations taking place.

I got home at about 10pm and went online to Youtube where I found a video of Jack singing at the 2005 Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner. The event typically has a satirical edge to it and that year was no exception with Jack singing his own lyrics to the tunes of three popular songs.

‘King of the Road’ became ‘Party For Sale or Rent’ with Jack making fun of himself, his party and the general state of federal politics at that time. The medley continued with ‘Nobody knows you when you’re down and out’ again with different and comical lyrics. He ended with a variant of the Barenaked Ladies ‘If I had a million dollars’ becoming ‘If I Had Another $48.6 billion dollars’.

As Jack left the stage that night – the musician accompanying him sang Hit The Road Jack. That night Jack left the stage of the press gallery dinner but yesterday he departed this life. He will be greatly missed, but what a legacy!

Jack Layton’s letter to Canadians

obituary from The Toronto Star—jack-layton-dead-at-61

Statement from Barry O’Neill, President CUPE BC

Statement from Paul Moist, National President CUPE