It was a sad day for Canada when we lost Jack Layton.
The thousands that turned out to mourn him were certainly unprecedented.
There have been many explanations for the outpouring of grief. Prime Minister Harper did not, I’m sure, anticipate such a country-wide reaction. Oh, people suggested various reasons for the crowds — he and sir John A. Macdonald were two who died in office — apart from the lesser known David Thomson (not the explorer) who was prime minister for two years before he died. But I think the outpouring of grief went much deeper.
Although the Conservative vote was just under 40 per cent (meaning many Canadians did not vote Conservative), it got Harper his coveted majority. And there are no checks on his authority as in other countries — the United States being the obvious example. In a short letter to the editor, I quoted another columnist, who (actually referring to the turmoil in the East) said “it’s no fun living under a dictator — as Canada will find during the next four years.”
For that I was chastised by an anonymous writer. She told me I must not criticize this “good Christian man”.
Yes? A man who will allow no contraceptives for women whose husbands have infected them with AIDS. Who may have seven children but are allowed no safe abortions. (All the while Harper boasts of his devotion to the health of underdeveloped countries.) A man who listens to the advice of no experts. A respected diplomat who brings news of the torture of Afghan prisoners is summarily dismissed. A woman who advises safer control over nuclear devices is fired. Canada’s place in the United Nations falters — as does its world reputation. How we needed an honest, forthright person to stand up for justice in Canada.
No doubt Jack Layton had his faults — we all have those. But how many of us would spend our last hours before death communicating with his fellow countrymen? How many would urge us to place love above anger — he who had every right to feel anger at the cruel fate which was taking over his body just as he could see good things ahead — finally a chance to speak of his passion for social justice, his concern for his country.
A chance to speak up for the “little man”.
And I believe Canada was ready for change. Many found party politics loathsome.
Many were disgusted with poor decisions made behind closed doors. They were ready for something better — for someone who would challenge such decisions.
But will the future be rosier? So far, change has not taken place. The NDP seems taken up with leadership squabbles. And Stephen Harper will continue his dictatorship role. Every member of his party will speak to a script — or be punished. No doubt Helena Georgis spoke a word out of line. A plea from the local Grannies for Africa that inexpensive drugs be secured for African aid was answered by our local representative almost identically, word for word, by those used to answer the Kamloops Grannies. (It would be interesting to hear what our new MP has to say.)
In a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Ruler of the Queen’s navy” tells of his election to Parliament.
“I always voted at my party’s call; And never thought of thinking for myself at all;
I thought so little they rewarded me; By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s navee.”
Gilbert’s satire is pretty much up to date. I fear for Canada’s future.
Dodi Morrison is a retired educator and freelance Penticton writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.