Like many Canadians I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend, and the leader of my Party, Jack Layton.
I assumed the national leadership of CUPE in 2003, the same year Jack became NDP leader. I first met him in the summer of 2002 in Regina where he talked about the “project” he was embarking upon to build our Party and position it to form government federally.
Few, myself included, would have predicted back then, the heights he would take us to in the May 2nd federal election.
The public Jack Layton is well known and his accomplishments have been well documented.
Today I reflect on my friend, the more private Jack Layton.
We called each other “Brother”. He’d call at all hours, as he’d put it, “to check in”.
From the campaign bus, at 6:00am, or at midnight…he’d e-mail first and then call. Dozens and dozens of calls over the years, he was generous beyond description with his time.
Jack was also a very, very effective politician. He knew how to get a “yes” out of me, and I suspect countless others.
In 2008 he called to advise that he needed Anne McGrath for just six weeks, to support his Leader’s Tour. I of course agreed but asked for his assurance that I’d get my Director of Equality back, he assured me I would. That was over three years ago, and Anne has been a pillar of strength in Jack’s office.
He always attended our national convention, and often the CUPE BC and other provincial conventions.
Delegates loved him and responded with genuine warmth.
He hosted dinners for myself and a small group of labour leaders. Sometimes to discuss specific issues, other times to just chat.
The last week of June our National Executive Board hosted an evening reception for Jack and the new caucus at the Press Club on Wellington Street across from Parliament Hill.
It was a wonderful evening, full of warmth and friendship. Jack and I said a few words. I reminded him that his “borrowing” of Anne McGrath was long past the six week mark.
A month later I was shocked and saddened to see his media conference where he stepped down.
Yesterday, I was shocked to hear news of his passing.
Leadership means impacting and Jack Layton impacted on Canadian politics like no other NDP leader before him.
Jack, the person, impacted at a much broader level with average Canadians, millions of whom entrusted their votes with his leadership.
I will miss Jacks calls and his friendship. His twisting my arm to run for office and join his caucus.
I will miss his calls about issues workers are facing. His calls for advice on issues he faced.
I know he would not want any of us to dwell on him. He’d ask that we continue the “project” and make true the dream we are closer to today than at any time in the CCF/NDP history.
As always, he gets a “yes” from me.
Rest peacefully Brother.
Canadian Union of Public Employees