The whole country is in mourning today. Mourning a man who brought charisma and charm to Canadian politics. Very few people could have managed to go out and campaign so soon after having hip surgery, cane in tow. Fewer still could have managed a brave visage and a voice full of determination when announcing the return of a new cancer. And only one could have managed to do all that with a smile on his face.
Mr. Layton did what no other federal leader has managed to do in a very long time: he captured the youth vote with fervor and enthusiasm. While the Conservatives and the Liberals remain parties that appeals to those who were alive for the repatriation of our country's constitution, Jack Layton galvanized Canada's youth to get out and vote. Whereas other parties consistently play into old white man politics, the NDP caucus has more female MPs than any other party in Canadian history.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Layton at Trudeau airport in Montreal, it was a little after the 2006 election, and he had just been re-elected. I was wearing a McGill sweatshirt and figured that a politician could not pass up an opportunity to chat with someone from his alma mater. I went up to him and congratulated him on his win, and with an obnoxious grin that only a 21-year-old McGill student can have, I informed him that I didn't vote NDP. Mr. Layton laughed wholeheartedly and told me he hoped I would come around to his side eventually, but until then, as long as young women like me continued to vote and remain passionate about politics he had nothing to complain about. With no witty retort prepared, I stared at him in disbelief. He then politely excused himself and I walked back to my mother dumbfounded. "He's exactly why I did vote NDP," she said smiling, as I slumped back down into my chair.
People love Jack because Jack really did embody the people he represented. While our prime minister may appeal to a certain demographic, I have never heard him be described as warm or personable. Likewise, the Liberals seemed to have elected the same charmless professorial man these last two election cycles, unable to emotionally connect with voters. But Mr. Layton was able to go out and attract people into voting NDP, with the most obvious example being the NDP surge that was seen in Quebec.
No matter what one's political affiliations are, the appeal that Jack Layton had cannot be denied. He was the last true leader Canada has seen in a very long time, and his presence will be missed by Canadians everywhere. Rest in peace, Mr. Layton.