For those not from around here, that's Nathan Phillips Square, the public space in front of Toronto's City Hall. Jack Layton was a councillor for the city of Toronto for years before he ran for and got the leadership of the New Democratic Party at the national level. The square is huge, and since Monday, it has been absolutely covered in chalk messages of condolence as the city of Toronto mourns one of its foremost citizens.
Of course, this all washed away in last night's storm. I predict that between now and the funeral on Saturday it will fill up again.
If he had remained with his family's traditional party - the Progressive Conservatives - or if he had continued in the party of his youth - Trudeau's Liberals - he would in all likelihood have been Prime Minister. In fact, he may have acheived the same had he lived five years longer. He had a powerful charisma paired with intense intellect and rock-solid integrity.
He was a socialist, which means he spoke for those who had no voice, for the homeless, for the poor, and for the LGBT community even before it was common for politicians to do so. He also spoke for the greater good of all citizens, advocating for improvements to infrastructure and health care and workers' rights. When American conservatives use the word "socialist" as an insult, Jack Layton is the reason Canadians look at them like they've grown horns.
His final letter to Canadians
is already being quoted widely and I suspect will be among the most well-known political documents in Canada for years to come.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if all politicans thought like this: "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." Jack Layton, 1950-2011