JUST A POLITICIAN, NOT A SAINT
I have kept my mouth shut for a year but this has become ridiculous. I come to bury Jack Layton, not to praise him, because he was just another politician, although his early death was unfortunate.
Ringing a John Lennon song on the Peace Tower carillon on the anniversary of his death! Chalking messages about Jack on a wall in Nathan Phillips Square. The media's fawning coverage!
My guess is they really didn't know him.
Not everyone swooned at the first anniversary of his death. Chris Selley in the National Post wrote a good comment under the headline The Wrong Song For Layton. Chris had better watch out. All you have to do is tackle some new mega-hero of the people and some nervous media hacks will use it as an excuse to fire you. I know.
For a decade I did a weekly commentary on CBC Radio in Toronto. My contract was not renewed - they said they were trying different voices - after I grumbled that John Sewell, then the darling of the CBC and the left in the media, was just a mayor, you know, he doesn't walk on water. The controversial mayor was being excused for yet another stupid stunt.
I guess as a fallen Baptist I should not have got into Biblical language, but I seemed to recall that Sewell was raised in a wealthy Baptist home and he certainly carried himself as holier-than-anyone.
Then I did a regular commentary on CFRB back when it was the giant among radio stations. I was called about the death of Princess Diana and made the mistake of saying that I thought she was a horny driven attractive woman and the song that Elton John rewrote for her was not that great.
I actually came to like the song, Candles in the Wind, which was first written for Marilyn Monroe who knew all about a public pretence of shyness and a inner desire to do anything she damn well pleased. But after I didn't participate in the international mourning for a spoiled brat, my regular spot on CFRB was filled by someone who would kowtow more to the public's latest hot heroes.
My knowledge of the former NDP leader is greater than most. I covered him as a columnist and cheerfully donated my time to a Ryerson Open College course on municipal politics that he taught as a professor.
It took several days out of my life because my recorded comments were used in most lectures but no one, not Layton or his associate or the university, thanked me. An honorarium would have been nice.
Jack always greeted me quite cordially although he disagreed with everything I wrote or said, but that didn't stop him from suing me and the Sun. One of the suits involved a Sun box which he argued was in the wrong place and hurt him when he was cycling. (As if the box jumped out at him.)
I think there was a libel suit or two but they didn't go far and I remember nothing about them.
I wish that everyone that has rushed to canonize him would remember his history as a pol who often lost a vote in Toronto council and lost elections too. He was hardly a popular alderman but was one of those named by opponents as leader of the " crazies' on council. There was the 1990 scandal when it was discovered that he and his wife, Olivia Chow, who is hardly a great thinker, had been living for years in a government-subsidized co-op despite their combined $120,000-a-year salary from taxpayers. They protested wildly but then paid $320 more a month for their three-bedroom apartment that they got for a bargain $800-a-month. Hardly a good example for the people but then Jack and Olivia never shirked from living well off the taxpayers.
He ran for mayor of the downtown city in 1991 and even though the inner city is a hotbed for the NDP and Liberals, he got only 32% of the vote. The winner, June Rowlands, a Liberal who became the city's first female mayor, got 113,993 votes to his 64,044.
And if the vote had been held after amalgamation, and included all the suburbs which definitely don't like the anti-car socialist views of the left, he would have lost by a bigger margin.
In the municipal election that year, another lefty, David Miller, had one of his three defeats. Miller also went on to become a darling of the left and the gLiberals who never admit that their heroes, these great political "statues," really have feet of clay that go right up to the thighs.
Layton certainly became a good NDP leader, that is if you like the NDP, and I don't, and his fight against cancer was inspiring. Selley seems to have liked Layton more than I did. He wrote a great conclusion. He said that Layton wasn't a hero or saint but he didn't begrudge anyone a nice vigil. "But ringing bells in a tower for a nice guy and very good politician just seems a bit ....much. Sorry."
Don't be sorry, Chris, You nailed it.
Now it turns out that the Canadian government spent more than a third of a million dollars on the state funeral for Layton. Ridiculous! Usually the NDP would take the lead in ridiculing and attacking such an expenditure. What a strained silence from them.
That amount, by the way, was more than the money spent on each of the last two state funerals for governors-general.