Of all the provinces, Alberta has been the toughest province to crack for Jack Layton’s social democratic ideas and for the New Democratic Party. Perhaps it is because this province has the toughest individualist stand about how things are done or because of the strong influence of the natural resource sector or the strong independent religious influences of some of the Alberta population. The Alberta electorate though, seems inoculated against thinking and seeing that government can make a difference to our lives for the better.
But in the last federal election in May, dramatic headway was made nationally under Layton’s leadership. For the next four years, social democratic options will be more visible, debated and shared in Parliament. Perhaps the stereotype of government as taxing us to death and invading our private lives will be upended in concrete and practical ways. Perhaps we might recognize more clearly that our social lives, which revolve around our families, our kids, our aging parents, our friendships and our community associations, can be empowered by a responsive and aware government. Not that governments are the beginning and end all of things; they can either be helpful or disruptive and like the Titanic, do not manoeuvre easily.
It is ironic that after an historic level of support particularly in Quebec, making the NDP the official opposition in Ottawa, that a vibrant, energized leader like Jack Layton should succumb so quickly to cancer.
There are heroes in our political life in Canada and in this province that are worth taking note of and remembering for their contributions and their commitment. Jack Layton was one of those.