Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the death of Jack Layton, former head of the New Democratic Party, and Leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, immediately prior to his untimely death.
My wife and I have just watched a CBC interview with Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, who will unveil a bust of Jack tomorrow that she has created. In a former life, Ms Chow was a sculptor who became more and more involved in "changing the world," as she puts her commitment to political life, and has not engaged in her former art since her mid-twenties.
When asked if she is as passionate, politically, as before his death, now that Jack and she no longer are able to motivate each other, she replied, "I think I am more passionate...there are still children going to bed hungry and I know that I cannot go to sleep if I am hungry so I can only imagine what it must be like for them to go hungry, and now that we don't have Jack's voice I have to speak more loudly or find more voices to continue the work he started!"
It may seem like a very simple and uncomplicated statement about child hunger coming in an anniversary interview one year after Jack Layton's death, but, as I asked my wife, "Who else is saying anything meaningful about child hunger in this country, on the national political stage?"
And why not?
Is it because the issue of child hunger, while being addressed by a company like Coca-Cola, through its breakfast program in conjunction with Minute Maid juices, one of the companies owned by Coke, does not have any sex appeal, because it does not rate very high on the political agenda of either the media or the political class?
In one of the richest countries in the world, Canada still pays little or no attention to hungry children, to children who have limited access, at best, to health care that most of us take for granted, that many children grow up in both poverty and hopelessness, without rating a significant place on the national agenda. This is not only an outrage and shameful. It is, also, primarily race-based. Most of the poorest children in Canada live among First Nations people, many of whom are struggling to make a decent living, find reasonable health care, feed their children and provide both hope and comfort for their future...and future that is intimately connected to the futures of all Canadians.
So, after much thought, and much reflection, and much vacillating, I have decided to add my small voice to that of Olivia Chow, to join the NDP, and to begin a voyage into the political wilderness that, in many ridings, is fraught with fear and rejection because, in those ridings the NDP is still considered "too radical" and "not-establishment-enough" to warrant a majority of votes.
That sentiment is now too old and out-of-date for my limited time on the planet.
That sentiment is now unwarranted, if for no other reason than there are too many signs of both political and economic maturity within both the people and the policies of the NDP, for it to continue to have merit.
Workers are watching hard-fought benefits erode at the hands of corporate boards whose contempt both for workers and for the labour organizations that fought for those benefits.
The environment is crying out for TLC that cannot, and will not, ever come from the neo-cons in charge in Ottawa.
The world's geopolitical community needs more of the peace-keeping, compassionate, maturity it once received from Canadians like Mike Pearson, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Nobel Prize recipient.
The tax code, the health care system, and the future of Canadian youth are all in need of both support and revisiting, in order to assure both sustainable development and fairness, words that have receded from public debate, both in the House of Commons and in the national media, with rare exceptions, like Carol Goar, columnist in the Toronto Star.
And, while hoping for the Liberals to revive seems a distant and receding dream, at this juncture, and merger with the NDP remains a viable option, at least for some of us, I believe that any energy I can summon on behalf of the voiceless in our communities can best be channeled through the NDP.