Jack Layton: Canada has lost a great Canadian

The news of Jack Layton's passing has led to an outpouring of tributes, tributes that span the entire political spectrum and reflect the profound impact that this man had on our lives, our communities, but most of all, our country. The common theme that runs through so many of those tributes is the recognition that Jack Layton's approach to politics and engagement with voters has transformed more than just his party. It has also changed the way in which Canadians see themselves, a change that will be one of the lasting features of his legacy.

His great strength and leadership were evident from his early days in the House of Commons where he showed an enormous capacity to mobilize his caucus and focus debate on issues that were critical to Canadians. We saw that capacity at work when then Prime Minister Paul Martin had to concede to pressures from Mr. Layton to amend his federal budget and put additional funding into social programs. Layton was similarly focused in December of 2008 when he mobilized a majority movement within the House of Commons to challenge the Harper government's reluctance to take meaningful action in the face of mounting economic uncertainty in Canada. Although Layton's efforts to formalize that pressure into a coalition government did not succeed, they did demonstrate his ability to work across partisan lines to advance progressive change. When his party made the major breakthrough in 2011 and formed the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, it was Jack Layton's ability to connect with Canadians that made that historic transformation possible.

In many ways it is no surprise that even in his final days, while struggling with cancer, that he found the energy to write a letter to Canadians, a letter that concludes with words that were so very much at the core of what Jack Layton stood for and used to guide him through both his public and private life. He talked about love, hope and optimism; qualities that he believed were more than just the attributes of good people. He saw them as catalysts for change, change that recognized the possibility for better in all of us and all of what we stand for as a country.

Canada has lost a great citizen, a person who knew that great things happen when ordinary people work to make it happen. That's Jack Layton's legacy to all Canadians. He will be truly missed.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.