English-speaking Canadians almost never give their votes to extraordinary politicians. Probably, it’s an early northern survival thing. They tend to pass on the high-spirited in politics and make it up in high praise, when they die.
The promises of these characters are generally skipped over in elections. Consequently, their vision is safely beyond dispute when they’re dead.
The public mourning, the testimonials, the notes from total strangers, the tears and flowers, and the much-anticipated state funeral for Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton wholly live up to this cautious, rather stingy contract amongst the living.
Also, Canadians are often told to turn prominent individuals into “icons.” This secular blessing makes it a little easier to skip over the recipient’s interesting faults and, so, makes their virtues a little less interesting as well. In the political arena, the icon machine usually waits until after the recipients are dead, leaving people free to vote for or against putative icons when they are still humbly asking for votes.
This restraint was thrown out the window this morning. Political columnist Tim Harper wrote a column on the New Democrat’s post-funeral task of finding a replacement for Jack Layton. He said this about the political potential of his wife and Member of Parliament, Olivia chow:
“Olivia Chow’s display of grace and courage at a time of such a personal tragedy has only burnished her already sparkling reputation in the party and will give her iconic status.
“It may be irresistible to think she could continue her husband’s unfinished work, but it is more likely her public or private endorsement of someone to pick up Layton’s legacy could seal a deal with party members.”
One admirable thing about social democrats has been their reluctance to be pushed in any direction by grief. Icons, even one’s identified by the Toronto Star, will not likely call the shots at their upcoming leadership convention.