[lg policy] Canada: How the legacy of Jack Layton will define the race

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 6 12:51:44 UTC 2011

How the legacy of Jack Layton will define the race
Published On Mon Sep 05 2011

“You have to move ahead,” Jack Layton's chief of staff, Anne McGrath,
recalled Layton telling her the last time she saw him.

Joanna Smith Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA—Jack Layton had one main concern for the future of his party as
he realized he was losing his battle with cancer last month. “You have
to move ahead,” his chief of staff, Anne McGrath, recalled Layton
telling her the last time she saw him at his Toronto home, alert,
sitting up in a chair and giving his closest advisers some advice of
his own as they helped him finalize his last political call to action.

“As we search for a new leader, we are not going to get Jack Part II,”
McGrath said in an interview. “What we’re going to get is a new leader
who will have their own ideas and their own vision, but my hope is
that it will be a vision and ideas that will carry on from the legacy
that has been built up under Jack . . .

“It would be foolish to discard what we have built and I think our
members and our voters who support us will be looking for us to
continue to present a positive, forward-looking, progressive
alternative to this government,” said McGrath. The final letter to
Canadians that Layton wrote — with the help of his wife and fellow New
Democrat MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), party president Brian Topp
and McGrath — suggests that is what Layton would have wanted too,
casting the upcoming leadership race in the light, and shadow, of his

“Jack is going to have a huge legacy and anybody who is seeking to run
for the leadership had better incorporate that into their message
about themselves and how they connect with it,” said Robin Sears, a
consultant and former national director of the NDP, adding that the
legacy goes beyond the one that Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and
Jean Chrétien left their successors. “It’s more powerful than that
because he very clearly drafted his last political will and testament
and made it very clear what he expects. I think all the candidates
should be sensitive to that. I suspect they will.”

The list of potential candidates keeps growing as more and more
members of caucus tell news outlets they are giving the idea at least
some thought, with even McGrath not ruling it out when the Star asked
her directly whether she would run.

There are, however, four names that show up consistently on
speculative lists. They are foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa
Centre), industry critic Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster),
deputy leader Thomas Mulcair (Outremont) and Topp, the party

Ian Capstick, a media consultant and former press secretary to Layton,
said all four of them are centrists who will likely advocate a
steady-as-she-goes approach to the future of the party, which could
prove challenging as they try to differentiate themselves throughout
the campaign.

“They are pretty much all New Democratic centrists with broadly based
social democratic ideologies and ideals. None of them yet have
suggested any massive or radical departure from that, nor could I see
them doing that,” said Capstick, noting that the discipline Layton
brought to his caucus smoothed over ideological fault lines.

Topp, for example, is a pragmatist who was the longtime deputy chief
of staff to one of the most successful New Democratic pragmatists,
former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow. Mulcair was a cabinet
minister under Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest during the time the
provincial government was waging war with public-sector unions who
helped develop some of the language policy the NDP aimed at soft
nationalist voters in Quebec. Julian is a former executive director of
the nationalist-minded Council of Canadians, while Dewar has
championed social corporate responsibility as a progressive approach
to globalization.

“This is going to be a lot more about electability than it is going to
be about policy,” said Capstick. “We’re playing in margins of the
centre here.”

Julian argued it was premature to try and figure out the vision that
each potential candidate would bring to the race.

“The time now is for discussion that we’re having internally, to
continue to mourn Jack’s passing but also to talk about how people
feel about how we can best carry out his legacy,” Julian said when
asked to describe where he would fall on the social democratic
spectrum. “As far as where New Democrats stand within caucus, we all
stand together.”

Sears listed three hallmarks of the Layton legacy that should serve as
tests for the candidates looking to replace him.

They are a deep understanding and connection to Quebec political
culture that goes beyond fluency in French, a preference for “power
over purity” and an ability to reach beyond the traditional NDP base,
as Layton did notably during the spring election campaign by tailoring
some policies to small business owners.

Beyond that, Sears suggested leadership candidates should be upfront
about how irreplaceable Layton is in order to avoid being measured
harshly against him.

“No one will be able to fill Jack’s shoes and that’s okay,” said
Sears. “I think the only way to deal with this tremendous hole in the
firmament that his departure has created is to say ‘I’m not Jack
Layton.’ None of us are. The best we can do is try to be respectful of
his legacy and live up to what it is that he has bequeathed us.”


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