Friday, July 29, 2011

The country is behind Layton

Editorial, The Ottawa Citizen:

For Jack Layton, politics has always been personal. He's in it because he truly believes, as he told his country on Monday, that we Canadians "can look after each other better than we do today." His success in the recent election was partly attributable to Layton's own qualities as a human being.

So it's not surprising that the reaction to the news that he's fighting another cancer was also personal. Canadians of all parties and ideologies were appalled by Layton's announcement and are rooting for him to recover quickly and get back to the job.

It is especially moving that Layton must take a leave of absence so soon after leading the party to its historic height, after forming the Official Opposition and becoming the voice of Quebec on Parliament Hill. He seems determined to get better and return in the fall.

His suggestion that Nycole Turmel lead the party in the meantime was surprising.

Turmel is certainly an impressive and capable person - so much so that this editorial board endorsed her in the riding of Hull-Aylmer in the 2011 election. Her background as president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada will equip her to judge and critique the government's choices as it prepares for an era of budget cuts. If the party does choose her as interim leader, the Ottawa-Gatineau region will gain one more prominent voice on the Hill.

Turmel is a brand-new MP, though, and there are many veterans - including Ottawa's Paul Dewar, or Libby Davies, or Pat Martin, or Charlie Angus - who are more tested in Parliament. Perhaps Layton wants the interim leader to be from Quebec - although in that case, Thomas Mulcair might have been the more conventional choice. Maybe Layton wants to signal his trust in the crop of rookie MPs. As NDP president Brian Topp pointed out at the press conference, Turmel is already caucus chair.

Layton ended his statement with a word we don't hear much in public life: "love." It didn't sound odd, though, coming from him. He's a man who loves his country, his party and his job, and who serves all of them faithfully. We wish him and his family well and hope to see him back on the Hill soon.

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