NDP Leadership Convention: Touching Tribute to Late New Democrat Leader

TORONTO – In a moving tribute ceremony, more than 4,600 delegates celebrated Jack Layton and his momentous legacy. In his eight years as the party’s leader, Jack steered the NDP from the political backwaters to Official Opposition status. His legacy is a new generation of inspired and dedicated New Democrats, Olivia Chow underscored in her speech.

The multi-faceted tribute showcased Jack’s determined political work, unshakeable faith in a better Canada as well as his boundless energy and humour. A diverse sample of those who shared part of the path with the NDP leader spoke: in addition to family members, trusted advisors like Brad Lavigne, allies like Shawn Atlee and former rivals like Brian Mulroney paid their respect to the oustanding politician.

Click here for a video of the tribute to Jack Layton.

The wife of the former head of the Official Opposition pointed out that the question is not what Jack’s legacy is, but what it will be. Talking to the 4,600 New Democrat delegates, she spurred on the activists to continue the great work that the late leader had started. Referring to Jack’s favourite time of the year, Olivia concluded that the spring for the NDP is now.

Transcript of Olivia’s Speech:

Thank you everyone. What a wonderful gift. Merci tout le monde. Quel beau cadeau.

With the strength and the support – and the love – of so many – we have come through a winter of challenge and change — together. And now – at last – it is spring. Two days ago, it was the equinox – the first day of spring. And I thought – how fortunate I was to spend so many springtimes with Jack.

Spring was Jack’s favorite season. The season of rebirth. The season of new growth. The season of hope — when seeds are planted. The season of optimism – because all things seem possible.

It is springtime for New Democrats. This first week of spring started with renewal in Jack’s beloved riding of Toronto Danforth – with the election of Craig Scott!

And the week will end with renewal of our party’s leadership. A new leader will be elected, and whichever candidate we support, we know we all share the same values, we all have a common purpose.

As we saw tonight, as we felt tonight, we were all moved and touched by Jack’s message… which was really a message to look for the essential goodness in ourselves and each other. It is the basic human values that tie us all together.

Love. Respect. Community. Integrity. And working together for a better world.

These may be simple terms, but they are very powerful forces. And they are the reason we are talking tonight not about what Jack Layton’s legacy WAS. But what his legacy WILL BE.

Because there is no doubt his legacy lives on. I catch glimpses of it every day. Like seeds being carried by the wind in the springtime. Every now and then one will settle down and start to grow.

I see his legacy in our excellent New Democrat team in Parliament. Committed each and every one of them to Jack’s principles of teamwork and respect. I see it in the House of Commons. 102 MPs – 40 of them women! – committed to bringing a new tone to Parliament. Committed to stopping the useless partisan games and the bullying… committed to getting things done. I saw it in the inspired leadership of Nycole Turmel. A real fighter for everyday families. Merci Nycole.

I look at our country – stronger and more united than ever – where for the first time in a generation, progressive people in Quebec and from everywhere in Canada have said let’s work together to build a better Canada. I look at our great country and I see his legacy.

But most importantly, I look at the faces of young Canadians – inspired by his message of love, hope and optimism. Jack believed like nothing else in the power of young people.

To reject those that say: this is the way it HAS to be. To show that together, we can make things better. To change the world. He believed so deeply for the need to bring real change soon. To defeat a government that is on the wrong track. To replace it with a government that has the interests of everyday Canadians at its heart. To tackle the growing challenges to our shared environment. To reduce the growing inequality in our country. To focus the country on what brings us together, not what drives us apart.

He was driven by a conviction that burned like a fire within him, that a better Canada was always within our grasp.

Travaillons ensemble pour bâtir un meilleur Canada.

And Jack knew that it was never up to one person. He knew that a job as big as this would take millions of people. And so where some like Stephen Harper set about to divide people… Jack set out to unite them. Where Stephen Harper set about making a government of one. Jack set about building the best team in Canadian politics. Where others focused on fear, division and anger. Jack came forward with love, hope and optimism. And the result my friends, is his greatest legacy.

A movement for change millions strong right here in Canada. A movement ready to defeat Stephen Harper and form a government for Canadians. An Orange Crush that is staying and growing. It is the legacy that’s right here in this room. Each of you carry Jack’s vision and dream in your heart. Close your eyes and picture the Canada you want.

It’s there – I know its there. A dream for a stronger, more equal, greener Canada. A Canada where no one is left behind. Individually it remains a dream. But working together we have the power to make it happen. Open your eyes and look at our strength. You, my friends… All of you, are the Layton legacy.

Strong. United. Looking forward with hope, optimism and love. And nothing can stand in our way. Let us go out and change the world.

And don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.