By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
Within the Palais des congres de Montreal, a complex series of boxes, decorated with brightly coloured glass and perched above the freeway, where Stephane Dion once became Liberal leader and where, if memory serves, Michael Ignatieff blew kisses from an escalator to supporters below, the president of the NDP called the meeting to order. And with that there was a complaint. It was in the opinion of a man referred to as Barry, apparently a fellow from the socialist caucus, that the 30 minutes set aside on Saturday afternoon to hear from an organizer of the Obama campaign be allotted, instead, for policy discussion. Barry seemed rather unimpressed with policies of President Obama’s administration.
“We don’t need Jeremy Bird to lecture NDPers on the virtues of the American bipartisan political system,” he ventured. “Labour and the NDP aren’t here to take instruction from political operatives of the White House. But we do have some good advice for our American sisters and brothers, for our fellow workers in the United States. Follow the example of the NDP, form an independent political party based on your unions, break with the Democratic party.”
Joe Cressy, a Toronto organizer who has worked for Olivia Chow and Paul Dewar, stepped forward to speak against Barry’s proposed amendment. “Friends, we have had a great start to this convention already and let’s keep this positive energy going,” he said. “We must build on our momentum by maintaining a packed agenda that has everything from learning how to organize and fundraise better to hearing from our leader, Tom Mulcair, to, yes, learning from the Obama team on how to mobilize those who…”
His final words were drowned out in applause. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 9:13 AM - 0 Comments
There is nothing else on television that compares with politics. Nothing in sports or entertainment comes near to matching the humanity, ego, power, celebration and conflict of it. As drama, it is perfect. Not only because there is so much at stake for society, but because there is so much at stake for the principal participants. How we govern ourselves is both our most fundamental construct and our greatest spectacle.
The latest attempt to make a film of this real show is Jack, a fine rendering of Jack Layton’s life, love, last campaign and final days. As much as can be conveyed in 88 minutes about a life spent practicing politics is neatly laid out. Rick Roberts does an admirable and impressive job in the title role, particularly in his grasp of Mr. Layton’s inherent goofiness. Sook-Yin Lee is quite good as Olivia Chow. Mr. Layton’s faithful aides—Brian Topp, Brad Lavigne, Anne McGrath and Karl Belanger—are well drawn. (Although it’s easy to quibble with the depictions of people you’ve actually met and spoken with at length—Brian Topp is more interesting a personality than is shown here—I’ll say that there is some real semblance of them on the screen.)
There seem to be some concessions made to dramatization—the Ottawa bar where New Democrats tend to hangout isn’t quite as nice and spacious as depicted—but the essence of Jack Layton is there. In some cases explicitly. After Mr. Layton’s defeat in Toronto’s 1991 mayoral election, he is consoled by Ms. Chow, who hugs him and says, “It’s not personal, Jack. It’s politics.” Mr. Layton quickly corrects her. “No, no, no, it is personal,” he says. “Win or lose, it has to be.” Later, in the hospital, dying from cancer, he explains to an admiring nurse that politics is just a trade like any other. I don’t know whether those conversations happened precisely as portrayed, but they might as well have. Jack Layton was thoroughly and entirely a politician. And so here is a movie about a politician.
Is it perhaps too soon for a movie about Jack Layton? It might feel that way. Pierre Trudeau was dead two years and it had been 18 years since he last held office when the CBC portrayed him in a miniseries. John A. Macdonald had been dead for 120 years when the CBC gave him a movie. For the most part, a certain period of time must pass before we feel it safe to pay tribute to a politician. They are not to be admired until we feel we can do so without thinking about all of the things we thought were silly and despicable about them. It has only been a year and a half since Mr. Layton passed and he had only just stepped away from politics. But then his passing was remarkable in that it showed we were still able to admire and respect a politician. And not just a politician, but a man who was so completely political. So perhaps here we should allow ourselves to appreciate a politician we knew so recently, even if everything about our evolutionary cynicism tells us not to.
For sure, there is much to appreciate: good causes and important efforts and, over the course of a lifetime, a commitment to the practice of politics. There are no doubt aspects of representative democracy that are grubby and selfish, but then such is life. Politics may not be noble, but it is important. We should not naturally despise it. Or, if we do, we should we still hope to find some good. Jack Layton did some good and found some success as well. Even if some of the appreciation of his life is a result of the tragedy of his death, he is still possibly one of the this country’s great politicians. Or at least one of this country’s great political stories. And in his life are reasons to see the good that can be (and is) in politics.
There are a few moments that might seem hokey—and, yes, not one, but two appearances of Parachute Club’s Rise Up—but the film is not too overly earnest. It is, of course, a bit odd to see an acted account of events you (in this case, me) actually witnessed. Admittedly, I enjoyed a privileged seat for that particular show. The scrum at which Mr. Layton announced he would not support the budget was, if memory serves, approximately twice as crowded as the movie depicts—Mr. Layton looking pale and hobbling to a lectern that was swarmed by reporters. The first week of the NDP campaign was as dismal as the movie suggests—in reality, the quibbles from reporters over the size of the crowd in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia resulted in a rare public flash of anger from Mr. Layton.
It is easy to forget now, but for a brief moment in the late stages of that campaign, it was possible to believe that Jack Layton might become the next prime minister of Canada. And it is important to remember how truly preposterous it all was. Even after the NDP surge seemed to level-off in the final days, there was something surreal about that final stretch: everything Mr. Layton had spent the previous eight years talking about while the rest of us scoffed seemed suddenly to be happening. And Ruth Ellen Brosseau was about to become an MP. The film skips entirely the final weekend, including the report from Sun News of a massage Mr. Layton received 15 years earlier that seemed momentarily to imperil everything, but also the heady bus ride from Montreal to Toronto on the last day, when the crowds that greeted him made it obvious something was going on and he and Ms. Chow kissed upon his arrival in Toronto. The campaign officially ended in a packed gymnasium in Scarborough. The next day, that riding, where a New Democrat had never finished better than third, went to the NDP by 5,000 votes. To watch the returns come in that night was to laugh—I believe I might have—at how much orange there suddenly was on the map. It was an incredible show to behold.
Less than four months later, Mr. Layton was dead. That was tragedy. And the outpouring that greeted his death was redeeming. And it could all easily be described as cinematic. But then it was all something like real life.
For more on Jack Layton’s life and death, see Maclean’s on Jack Layton featuring our best stories covering the former NDP leader’s remarkable decade on the Hill. This collection of in-depth profiles and short features delivers a portrait of the man. There’s also a behind-the-scene’s look at the crafting of Layton’s last letter to Canadians, and the influence it had on the nation. Olivia Chow also shares her thoughts on what inspired her late husband.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair’s principal secretary sends his regards to Claude Patry. The Star’s editorial board likewise suggests Mr. Patry should resign and face a by-election. Chantal Hebert offers some background on the backbencher and some consideration of the future. And Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro offers his analysis.
News that another NDP MP has abandonned them, this time to go to the BLOC demonstrates how undemocratic the NDP really is. Because their members are always foced to follow the party line when voting in parliament the only choice that members have when they disagree is to leave.
It is true that New Democrats have tended to vote alike in this current Parliament, while several Conservatives have voted the party line a mere 98% or 99% of the time, but it’s not clear that Mr. Patry’s situation was a matter of party discipline run amok. He seems to have had a fairly fundamental difference of opinion over fundamental party policy—in this case sovereignty for Quebec and how that might be achieved. Maybe he could have remained both a resolute sovereigntist and a member of the NDP, presuming that the party hadn’t tabled its Unity Bill or taken the position on Churchill Falls that it did, but Mr. Del Mastro probably wouldn’t have approved of that either.
Usually three instances of something is sufficient grounds to declare a trend, but it’s not clear to me that there is a common denominator between Lise St. Denis, Bruce Hyer and Mr. Patry. Ms. St. Denis got to Ottawa and decided she wanted to be a Liberal. Mr. Hyer decided to become an independent because he didn’t like Mr. Mulcair’s style of leadership and position on the long-gun registry. (Conversely, John Rafferty, the other long-gun registry dissident in the NDP, opted to stay with the New Democrats.) Mr. Patry decided that the NDP’s views on Quebec didn’t match his own.
If two more Quebec New Democrats bolt for the Bloc, there will be an obvious and particular trend. But for now we have three MPs of varying backgrounds who’ve gone in three different directions (even if they all were running away from the same place). If we’re searching for a narrative here, I’ll submit this: after a dramatic and unexpected increase in the size of their caucus and a sudden change in leadership, there was bound to be some shaking out within the NDP. In the process of everyone figuring out where they fit and who does what, a few have apparently decided they would be better off elsewhere. If they remain a few, there’s maybe not much of a problem. If this keeps happening and the sample of three turns into a sample of four or five or more, it will become easier to identify a more obviously negative trend.
As for whether Mr. Patry should step down and face a by-election, his vote a year ago in this regard should make it difficult for him to argue otherwise. There are a lot of questions to be asked about this idea, but as a general principle it has some merit.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 1:31 AM - 0 Comments
One person is dead after a man opened fire at Pauline Marois’ victory rally in Montreal.
Boulversé par les événements violents auprés de la célébration péquiste à Montréal ce soir. C’est épouvantable.
— Jason Kenney (@kenneyjason) September 5, 2012
Sending congratulations and sympathies to Pauline Marois, prayers for the injured, and a hope that political violence will never re-occur.
— Elizabeth May MP (@ElizabethMay) September 5, 2012
Nous venons de vivre un attentat politique.L’oeuvre d’un désaxé ou pas,ns devons faire preuve de solidarité pour protéger notre démocratie.
— DenisCoderre (@DenisCoderre) September 5, 2012
— Paul Dewar (@PaulDewar) September 5, 2012
Nous sommes consternés devant cette violence et nos pensées sont avec les victimes et leurs proches. #Qc2012
— Carl Vallée (@carlvallee) September 5, 2012
Réunis à Terre-Neuve, les néo-démocrates sont sous le choc. Crime odieux, inconcevable. Nos pensées vont aux victimes, leurs proches.
— Karl Bélanger (@KarlBelanger) September 5, 2012
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 6:14 PM - 28 Comments
(This post last updated at 7:31pm)
According to the CBC, Conservative MP Bob Dechert, the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, will soon acknowledge that he sent flirtatious emails to a reporter with the Chinese state news agency. Earlier the Ottawa Citizen reported on the existence of said emails.
E-mails circulated in Ottawa on Friday contain messages apparently between Chinese journalist Shi Rong of the Xinhua News Agency and Mississauga–Erindale MP Bob Dechert, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. One message that appears to have been sent from Dechert’s Parliament Hill account reads: “You are so beautiful. I really like that picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute. I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more.”
More from the Globe.
6:16pm. A statement from Mr. Dechert’s office has now been issued. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 8 Comments
A sense of solidarity unites the NDP caucus
After Jack Layton had departed Parliament Hill for the final time last week, his flag-draped casket loaded into a waiting hearse and driven away as a large crowd applauded, those NDP MPs who had gathered to see him off fanned out to greet and thank the well-wishers and mourners. “What I kept on saying to people over and over again,” says Libby Davies, one of Layton’s two deputy leaders, “without even thinking, it was just instinct, was, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to keep working.’ ”
While they mourned their leader, New Democrats could hardly ignore the many questions left in his absence: about their viability, direction and meaning as a party without the man who seemed to define them. But if, in the wake of Layton’s passing, there was a certain fear for the future of the NDP—raised by any number of pundits who now deem the party doomed—New Democrats themselves claim only resolve.
“There isn’t any fear of the future in the caucus—from the new members through the experienced ones,” says Joe Comartin, the veteran MP from Windsor. “And in fact, I’ll say there is some resentment to the pundits and commentators who are tending to write us off. I think there’s a bit of a level of resentment because of that determination, because Jack wouldn’t let us not carry on. So we’re going to carry on.”
By Anne Kingston - Monday, September 5, 2011 at 1:00 PM - 7 Comments
For Layton and Chow, a singular political partnership, it was love at first sight
In 1987, Jack Layton and Olivia Chow attended a fundraiser for Toronto’s St. Stephen’s Community Centre at a Chinatown restaurant. By then they were already “Jack and Olivia”—NDP star couple, he a rabble-rousing city councillor, she an activist Toronto School Board trustee. After dinner, Layton took the stage as energetic auctioneer, a role he played for social causes. Afterwards, I watched the couple hit the dance floor, a force field of two you couldn’t look away from.
Lorraine Segato, a long-time friend of Chow’s and Layton’s who performed at the politician’s state funeral, carries a similar mental snapshot of them from her 2009 wedding to Ilana Landsberg-Lewis. “I scanned the room of 350 happy people dancing to great music, and Jack and Olivia were in the middle,” she says. “Later I saw Jack holding [his granddaughter] Beatrice up. It was an unbelievable moment of pure joy in the family unit.”
It wasn’t surprising that Karl Bélanger, Layton’s long-time press secretary, cited the couple’s 26-year union at Layton’s funeral as emblematic of the NDP leader’s “collective ambition” and “team effort”; the “partnership of romance and politics with Olivia the greatest proof,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 2, 2011 at 8:21 PM - 2 Comments
Romeo Saganash is leaving open the possibility of a run for the NDP leadership and Karl Belanger, Jack Layton’s press secretary, is being urged to consider entering the race, but Thomas Mulcair says he’ll stay out if a vote is set for January.
“If what some people seemed to be angling for, which was January, if that ever came to pass, you know, I’d just continue working very hard to do the best we could, but I would never be part of something where there wouldn’t be a level playing field,” he said Friday…
“I have some very strong support for an eventual shot at it from my Quebec colleagues, and I’m honoured and thrilled at that but I’ve also got to build in the rest of Canada,” Mulcair said in an interview Friday. “We’ve got to have time to meet with people, to connect with them, to say who we are, what we do, and that can only be done with a campaign that would be similar to the ’02-03 campaign, which was a 7 1/2-month campaign.”
Mr. Mulcair, along with Pat Martin and Peter Stoffer, also quibbles with setting aside votes for labour unions.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 10:48 PM - 2 Comments
I only met Layton once, in his final and finest office on Parliament Hill. Judging by the stories and anecdotes I saw this week, in print and in voice and in chalk, two million or so Canadians knew him better, and believed he was genuinely interested in their lives — “a man of the people who made everyone feel special,” as Shawn Atleo said. Love him or hate him, this is pretty much what politics is supposed to be.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 4:31 PM - 7 Comments
Jack Layton didn’t want a funeral. He wanted a “celebration of life.” And so that’s what it was. Not just a celebration of a life—though it certainly was that—but a celebration of life.
As the Reverend Brent Hawkes—our guide for this afternoon—said at the outset: we would cry together, but we would laugh together. And so everyone, together, did just that. They cried and they laughed. But not just that: they also cheered and they sang. They prayed and they mourned. They stood and they applauded.
“Jack was so alive,” said Stephen Lewis, the first of four to eulogize the man.
And so was the celebration that brought an end to this remarkable week. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 1 Comment
The NDP has released the full details of Saturday’s “celebration of life” in honour of Jack Layton. The public visitation at city hall in Toronto will conclude at 11am Saturday morning. The procession to Roy Thomson Hall will begin at approximately 1:15pm, followed by the service at 2pm, with an overflow area outside Roy Thomson Hall and four video screens set up in David Pecaut Square, to the west of the hall.
The service will proceed as follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 11:52 AM - 0 Comments
From this week’s print edition, a behind-the-scenes look at Jack Layton’s announcement last month.
The story is primarily based on interviews with Mr. Layton’s chief of staff Anne McGrath, his press secretary Karl Belanger, his principal secretary Brad Lavigne and MPs Libby Davies, Thomas Mulcair, Joe Comartin and Paul Dewar. Martin Patriquin, our man in Montreal, spoke to Nycole Turmel (note: that conversation took place before her membership in the Bloc Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire were reported). Cathy Gulli in Toronto sought out medical advice. The result is something like 3,000 words that hopefully shed light on the month leading up to Mr. Layton’s announcement and the immediate aftermath.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 11:17 PM - 0 Comments
Earlier this evening, with the defeat of several proposed amendments, the House of Commons officially passed Bill C-6. In brief comments to reporters, the Prime Minister pronounced victory.
After a completely unnecessary delay, I’m nevertheless pleased that very soon Canadians will again have access to the postal services, particularly small business and charities, and of course, this is the only thing that Canadians ever really wanted. So congratulations to the Minister for her leadership in this … We know what side the public was on and I think today members of Parliament on the other side finally started to get that message.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM - 6 Comments
NDP MPs gathered for their annual Christmas dinner. Below, Glenn Thibeault.
NDP MPs gathered for their annual Christmas dinner. Below, Glenn Thibeault.
Glenn Thibeault back in the day.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 9:15 AM - 7 Comments
The final All-Party Party organized by NDP MP Peter Stoffer packed 200 West Block….
The final All-Party Party organized by NDP MP Peter Stoffer packed 200 West Block. The building is scheduled for major maintenance and will be closed for years. Below, Liberal Senator David Smith (left) and Tory Senator Nancy Ruth take to the dance floor.
Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 4:40 PM - 24 Comments
Jack Layton’s press secretary, fielding perhaps the most redeeming call of his career in communications, says the NDP leader was merely trying to see the television.
“The TV screen was up there, he moved her arm to be able to see,” Karl Bélanger told The Globe. “She was clearly not upset or anything like that. She is a friend of a former NDP candidate who happened to sit besides them for the game. They shared a great Canadian moment and enjoyed a few beers together.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 8:09 AM - 24 Comments
The NDP and Liberals respond to the government’s new schedule.
After hearing the news, the NDP argued that the House of Commons should resume sitting immediately. “Instead of playing silly games, the PM should recall Parliament right away to deal with all the important issues facing Canadians,” said Karl Belanger, spokesperson for NDP Leader Jack Layton.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 1:55 PM - 15 Comments
Asked Karl Belanger, press secretary to Jack Layton, about suggestions that the NDP was associated with yesterday’s protest. His response.
Ya, that’s right. We organized a protest to interrupt our Leader during his question. Clearly, it was a socialist plot from the NDP.
So there. Nonetheless, whether officially sanctioned or not, NDP MP Nathan Cullen seems to have appreciated the disruption.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 12:46 PM - 20 Comments
It is now down to this.
The fate of the 40th Parliament hangs on whether this week’s Conservative government announcement on employment insurance reform is enough to win the support of at least one opposition party.
Yet the NDP says an email sent last week to Mr. Giorno by NDP Leader Jack Layton’s chief of staff, Anne McGrath, has so far been ignored. “It is telling. It is their modus operandi,” NDP spokesman Karl Belanger said. “They don’t want to work with other parties and they’re trying to minimize the contact with other parties. That’s been the case with the Prime Minister and his team since they got into power.”
When Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton met face to face in the Prime Minister’s office on Aug. 25, both Ms. McGrath and Mr. Giorno were in the room.
The Prime Minister’s Office has yet to respond to questions about the email today, however Mr. Belanger says Ms. McGrath’s email was an attempt to follow up on issues raised during that Aug. 25 meeting. “During the meeting, they, the Tories were asking questions about some of our proposals,” Mr. Belanger said. “And we said we would follow up. And McGrath did try to follow up last week by sending a note – it was an email – and never heard back.”