#123 “Ethical politician” not always an oxymoron – thanks, Jack Layton

Ottawa says farewell, photo by shawndearn via Flickr Creative Commons

When I watch the Liberals in my home province of British Columbia and the Conservatives at the federal level selling off our future, I am quite certain they learned their style of governance by reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The characters in Lewis Carroll’s classic would applaud their logic, as they slash social programs, hand out tax breaks for the rich, refuse to be responsible stewards of our planet, and then claim to be acting for the common good.

But politics is about the quality of life for all of us. We deserve honesty and integrity, not politicians who sound like characters at the Mad Tea Party.  One politician who confirmed my belief that “ethical politician” does not have to be an oxymoron was Jack Layton. He gave me and a lot of other Canadians hope.

I’m happy I had a chance to vote for him for the office of Prime Minister. I’m happy I could watch him be the sole statesman, the only candidate who cared about ordinary people, in the leadership debates. I’m happy Jack Layton led the New Democratic Party to a higher profile than it has ever had in federal politics. I’m happy Quebecers turned their back on divisive politics and elected a team of New Democrats to Parliament.

It’s typical of Jack Layton that two days before cancer ended his life he wrote a letter of farewell. His generosity of spirit shines through. I hope Canadian youth will read his words and be inspired by them. He was right when he wrote, “Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what the country needs today.”

And I hope all Canadians will be take heed of his last words to us. We need inspiration like this from our politicians, rather than the platitudes and convoluted, Mad-Hatter speeches they too often deliver to justify shredding the values that make this country unique.

“Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

I hear you, Jack. I’ll do my part.

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