With the passing of Jack Layton, the Federal NDP has lost its most charismatic and politically effective leader in recent memory.
The NDP at all levels lost a galvanizing force and a highly visible example of the party’s capacity to carry political weight. Indeed, when mourning draws to a close and Canada begins to look forward, its lower levels of government will become keenly aware of the long term effects of this tragedy.
It is no secret that this city is, and has long been, an NDP powerhouse. With probably half of the local politicians — elected or not — associated with the New Democrats, you would be hard pressed to find a safer bet for the party at any level.
While this may have its advantages — a sharp decline in bickering at the local level, for example — every silver lining must have its cloud. Presenting a unified front of local politicians in opposition to a conservative federal and provincial government ensures we here in The Capital don’t always get what we ask for.
But this is not always so. As party leader, Layton doubled the presence of the federal NDP in our province and led the party to its current status as official opposition. The party’s strength inevitably trickles down, which in turn presents a friendlier face when we go hat in hand to the powers that be.
More personally, Layton was our region’s link to Ottawa. It was he who convinced the feds to set funds aside when City Hall almost missed the deadline for our big blue infrastructure proposal. Now that he’s gone, what was shaping up to be The Capital’s good years has found itself on shaky ground.
While end-of-days type rhetoric flows from a mass of politicians who comfortably assure us that a crushing blow has been dealt to the party, even they are forced upon interrogation to admit that the only real obstacle here is uncertainty.
The NDP has its highest number of seats in years, and with that a very real path into government. Very soon, a new leader will determine if Layton’s passing will unite or destroy the party.
Whether we like it or not, the ease of political life here in The Capital will follow suit. M