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Too soon to exploit Jack

THE MEMORY OF Jack Layton is still fresh in the minds of Canadians, especially as Parliament sat for the first time since his passing last week. Even more prominent are the words from his letter, Jack’s final message to Canadians, which have inspired so many. So, it is deeply unsettling, if not downright sickening, to see provincial NDP candidates invoking Layton’s name for political gain in the upcoming provincial elections.

A recent message from Dan Harris, NDP candidate from the Scarborough Southwest riding, stating how difficult it has been to carry on after Layton’s death and that, “We share sadness but we also shared a sense of renewed commitment, inspiration, and hope” caused Ontario party leader Andrea Horwath to publicly call for an end to the messages. However, just last week during the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, with Horwath in attendance, NDP party members showed up in shirts saying “LOVE, HOPE, OPTIMISM —Jack Layton.”

Political exploitation is not a new phenomenon. The “photo-op” is a long-standing political tradition. In the U.S. ,hardly a campaign event goes by where the candidate doesn’t bring up the contributions of American soldiers fighting abroad and link their ordeal to his or her political stance.

Even in Canada, the Conservative government used the disaster in Haiti to garner some good press when they had children being flown in to stay with host families take photographs with Conservative ministers before going to their new homes. Despite the prominence of the photo-op, it seems to be a generally accepted rule amongst politicians of all parties and nations that the dead are off limits. They cannot speak for themselves, and it is fundamentally wrong to speak for them.

While it is very likely Layton would have campaigned alongside the Ontario NDP candidates and supported their platforms, no one can be sure how involved or vocal he would have been. To exploit his federal success for gains at the provincial level does nothing but cheapen Layton’s legacy.

Layton’s final words were undeniably a calculated political move by the late leader and top party officials, but its message is one that resonated with Canadians of all political stripes. The idea that tomorrow can be better is something every citizen should strive for in their public and personal lives. The NDP does not have the corner on love, hope, and optimism—those are the values of all Canadians.

—Ryan Mallough