News

The Grief of Jack Layton’s Cancer Announcement

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I am not going to speculate on Official Opposition and NDP Leader Jack Layton’s cancer and condition because the timing of his announcement reminds me too much of the timing of my own catastrophe that it overwhelms other thoughts.

It is awful and frightening when you receive a troubling diagnosis; it is shocking enough when you’re trucking along and either a couple of bad drivers hit you or your doctor sits you down to tell you have cancer. But when you are at the point of achieving your greatest goal — or in Jack’s case having reached it and being placed to reach further — there is something intensely grieving about receiving that kind of news. One moment, you are happy, laughing, loving each day, anticipating with excitement the fulfillment of all your work; the next, you’re facing the death of your dream, and in Jack’s case, perhaps his very life. It is a devastating fall. And the grief both drives you to get better and infects your every moment. The grief rocks your world and rolls your emotions from anger to bawling. Over the long term, it buries hope.

But Jack is probably going to have a relatively short fight, given the nature of cancer; it’s easier to keep up the spirit over months or a few years of active work-interfering treatment than years and years and years. Being a politician, he also has a well of hope that never runs out. For decades, he has faced constant rejection and ridicule from naysayers and political enemies until after this election victory, yet the well of his hope and optimism only became deeper. He has close support in his family and friends and a net of well wishers from one end of Canada to the other, from the south to the north, lifting and holding him up. He will not lose hope, and he is a determined man. I hope for him, and for us, that his dream, that the pursuit of his ultimate achievement will not be derailed.

Personal

My #elxn41 Experience

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It’s almost 2:00 am as I begin to write this, the morning of May 3rd, and I’m watching the local election results and now the BC election results on CBC. It’s been one of those elections that are so unexpected that even though I’m not happy with the Conservative Party majority, I’m finding it hard to wind down. I blame Twitter.

I’ve never had an election experience like this before. Usually, in the weeks leading up to the election, I read the papers, I watch the short TV news stories, and in the last one, I also followed opinions on Twitter. Then on election day, I watch the results on TV and have short convos with people I know in real life about the results. Ho hum.

This year was different. First so many reporters came onto Twitter and live tweeted events, shared pix, cracked wise or trivial — that they gave me an inside picture of the leaders’ campaigns I’d never seen before. It was relevatory and fun, especially when the unthinkable happened — the Orange Crush. And second, so many more people were tweeting about the election today than have done so before (at least that was my impression) that it truly felt like I was part of the entire country. I saw results come from Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada in real time, not as a 2-second clip prior to the Ontario and Québec results being released. I got a glimpse into the electoral map on our east coast in a personal way. And it made me feel closer to that part of the country. The same with British Columbia. In fact, seeing Canadians in east and west opining on national and their own local results caused me to notice the absence of those in the North tweeting their territorial results.

Because I was so caught up with what was going on nationally from east to west in Canada on Twitter, TV, and online streaming, I forgot all about my own local results. I wasn’t too concerned because I honestly felt that, as usual, Toronto would resist the wave of change.

I was wrong.

People in Toronto historically, for the most part, vote Liberal and seemingly always vote incumbent. The familiar name is the safe name, never mind that our MPs just do not represent our needs and interests in Ottawa despite the billions in taxes we send that way. We vote them in time and again, and they reward us with big words, magnificent promises, no action. Our city is crumbling, and our MPs do nada. Apparently, fellow Torontonians noticed, and many decided to take a massive risk and vote for a new name, a different party. Awesome. Unfortunately, around Toronto, voters went blue instead of orange or green.

The Twitterverse, usually not in sync politically with the non-Twitterverse, was not happy with the Conservative win. All sorts of complaints flew around about it’s all the NDP’s fault for vote splitting. But as one of my followers said, vote splitting has benefitted the Liberals in the past. This is not new. And that is not a reason to impose upon us a stuffy, stultifying two-party system. The Canadian Alliance came from the Progressive Conservative Party so the unite-the-right was essentially fixing that split. But NDP came from CCF not Liberals, and Greens are not left. So unite the left is not the same as unite the right.

What is new in this election is that so many Canadians right across Canada chose NDP in enough numbers to make them the Official Opposition. They are not the Liberals, and they will bring a different tone to our Parliament because NDP Leader Jack Layton has demonstrated an ability to negotiate with Harper, because he doesn’t huff and puff dramatically then quits, because Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (though only one person has a strong voice) will be there and will back up Layton in trying to bring a more respectful tone to the House, because they have not wavered in policy goals, and because they learn.

One thing that both Harper and Layton have demonstrated is that patience and persistence pay off for those who do not lose hope, who don’t quit, flip, or switch. Those of us yearning for electoral and Parliamentary reform to restore our democracy, would be wise to learn from that and to see that the NDP, the only big-three party for reform, is one step away from government and being in a position to effect reform instead of crying that all is lost with a five-year Harper majority. (Yes, it’s bad, but Canada will survive.) This is the time to persuade Tory voters that democratic reform is very important, too important to ignore in the next election.