Recently the Harper government conducted a poll to determine the top ten Canadians who inspired us. From top to bottom:
1. Pierre Trudeau
2. Terry Fox
3. Tommy Douglas
4. Lester B. Pearson
5. Chris Hadfield
6. David Suzuki
7. Sir. John A. MacDonald
8. Wayne Gretzky
9. Jack Layton
10. Romeo Dallaire
What first struck me about the list was that no women were included.
What about Agnes McPhail, the first female MP and her work on prison reform? The Famous Five who fought and won the right for women to become "persons", not chattel? Louise Arbour who became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights? The list goes on.
Most who made the cut are self explanatory, since they contributed a great deal to building Canada as a nation, and strengthened our international reputation.
Jack Layton was a puzzle though. He enjoyed some political success but I can't think of anything he did that would stand the test of time.
He joined Stephen Harper in fighting against the Kyoto accord and even campaigned against the carbon tax, claiming that it would hurt families, despite the fact that it was revenue neutral.
Elizabeth May recounted her experience with Layton and his political move.
I remember phoning Jack Layton to beg him not to bring down the government on the opening day of the climate conference. I had known and liked Jack since he was on Toronto City Council. He had been enormously helpful, volunteering as an auctioneer in local Sierra Club events. He told me when he ran for leader of the NDP that he was only seeking a role in federal politics to deal with the climate crisis. I had believed him. As he threatened to sabotage the most important global climate negotiations in history, I recall leaving a message on his cellphone: "How will you look at yourself in the mirror if you do this?"A similar strategy backfired in the recent Ontario election.
... It is only with hindsight that I have come to believe that the climate negotiations were not merely collateral damage to the incidental timing of November 2 8. I now believe that Harper and Layton had a shared desire to pull the plug before the Martin government had a chance to look good on the world stage. I think it is extremely likely, given the way Layton downplayed the climate threat in 2006, that a conscious decision was made by NDP strategists. They had to make sure the key issue remained Liberal corruption for the NDP to avoid losing votes to the Liberals. (Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 2-7)
I liked Jack Layton but he was not at the heart NDP, at least not in the Tommy Douglas tradition. He spent the most on travel, he exploited subsidized housing" and a study conducted by McMaster University, revealed that he was the nastiest MP.
I can think of many others more deserving, but there is a bigger issue with the list.
What does this say to Stephen Harper?
Our heroes fought for a Just Society, gave us National Healthcare, Peacekeepers, fight for the Environment and the plight of the downtrodden. Except for MacDonald, none were Conservative, though our first prime minister was nothing like our current, as Harper himself reminded us.
Clearly, Canada has not moved to the right, as some suggest. We cherish everything that Stephen Harper fights against.
It's also interesting as we watch American politics, in the days of the Tea Party, that they actually share the same values.
NBC recently conducted a poll asking who was the best President in the past 25 years. Bill Clinton was number one and Barack Obama number two.
As an interesting coincidence, the son of Canada's first choice will be running for Prime Minister in 2014, while the wife of America's first choice, may be running for President in 2016.
Harper conducted the poll in preparation for our 150th anniversary in 2017. We just have to make sure that the poll is his only involvement in the process.
How can we expect someone who wants to destroy everything our inspirations built, speak for our country?