It’s one of those solemn Canadian moments: A casket draped in the flag of Canada. A body lying in state on Parliament Hill. Canadian flag on the Peace Tower and public buildings across the country flying half-mast. Canadians, in their thousands, setting aside their petty political differences to unite in paying their last respects to the departed.
Kudos to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Conservative to the core, Harper rose above his trademark divide-and-rule politics and accorded Layton the honor of a state funeral. It’s not every day a divisive leader publicly confirms a rival’s greatness. A state funeral traditionally honors heads of state and other important national figures. In Canada, it’s normally the preserve of eminent national figures. Among them, former and current Prime Ministers, and Governor Generals.
Layton now joins the likes of Pierre Trudeau in this eminent club.
But credit is due to Layton too. He earned the honor. The man cared too much for Canada and the world. A good thing indeed. Layton’s politics were fearless, tolerant, civil, diplomatic, progressive and positive. Always the optimist, the social democrat tirelessly fought for social justice. He fought the fight of the regular guy. Some of his issues: homelessness, housing, healthcare, equality, same-sex rights, human rights, the environment.
As I blogged earlier, Layton’s leadership has forever changed the Canadian political landscape. During the May 2 Federal election the NDP made its biggest electoral performance at the federal level in 50 years, winning 103 seats, 58 of them from Quebec.
In the process, Layton neutered the Boc Quebecois . He brought Quebec separatists into a federal party to work for a united Canada.
As we carry on Layton’s dream of a better Canada, a better world, we needn’t worry about Canada breaking up.