What Would Jack Say? 

November 1st, 2014 | D. Stone 

Jack Layton built his reputation on holding people accountable. The unfortunate scourge of cancer took his life too soon, but it's not difficult to imagine what Jack Layton would have had to say about Justin Trudeau. Based on his history of delivering brilliant one-liners and jabs in debates and in parliament, it's easy to have an idea of how Layton would have responded to just a few of Justin's many follies and bad habits. 


In a memorable 2011 leadership debate, Jack Layton told Michael Ignatieff, "Most Canadians, if they don't show up for work, they don't get a promotion. You missed 70% of the votes." Michael Ignatieff, along with most if his high profile Liberals, like Bob Rae, had higher than average absenteeism in the House Of Commons between 2008 and 2011. Jack Layton made sure to remind Canadians that Michael Ignatieff wasn't ready to be promoted to the Prime Minister's Office.

Not only has Trudeau had an exceptionally bad habit of missing important votes in the House, he has called for debates and votes on important issues and then either not shown up, or shown up but ducked out early. In August, Trudeau called for a debate on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. When the debate finally happened, Justin Trudeau wasn't even in Ottawa to participate. In October, Trudeau called for a vote and debate in the House on whether Canada should join in the war against ISIS. Trudeau showed up, gave a quick speech to oppose the mission and then left to watch Hillary Clinton speak in Ottawa, where she reiterated the importance and need for military action against ISIS.

It's unquestionable that Jack Layton would have loudly called out Justin Trudeau not only on his absences, but for his lack of work ethic in parliament. Because it would have been Jack Layton and not Thomas Mulcair, voters and the media would have listened. 

The Senate And Partisanship

Jack Layton was the leader in calling for the Canadian Senate to be abolished. He would have undoubtedly had words of criticism for Trudeau when he declared all sitting Liberal senators independents. Justin Trudeau declared that his sitting "former Liberal" senators were suddenly and magically non-partisan, even though he allowed them all to vote as Liberal members at the party's convention. It's likely that Jack Layton, just like Mulcair, would have found Trudeau's actions not only amusing but blatantly political. Unlike Jack Layton, Justin Trudeau has used the senate scandal to make cheap, worthless political moves instead of substantial efforts for real reform. 


The New Democrats under Jack Layton have always been a pro-choice party. When Trudeau declared that his party was no longer open to pro-life candidates, Layton would have done the same as Thomas Mulcair: criticized Trudeau's policy of exclusion and then reminded voters that it has always been a no-brainer for the NDP. 

The New Democrats have always been Canada's natural pro-choice party, without having to exclude their own members or make a loud and polarizing declaration. There's no doubt that Layton would have also condemned the undemocratic nature of Trudeau's mandatory pro-choice policy.

Flip Flopping

As any NDPer would contend, Jack Layton didn't appreciate politicians who flip flopped on important issues. In the gun registry debate, the NDP and Jack Layton have always supported the long gun registry that was axed by the Conservatives. 

Justin Trudeau voted to keep the gun registry, but then began to campaign against it and call it a failure after becoming the Liberal leader. Jack Layton would have had a hayday with Justin's flip flopping on this and many other issues, like when Trudeau voted in favour of mandatory minimum sentences for possession of marijuana, but then made legalization a focus of his campaign to become Prime Minister. 

Legalized Marijuana

In 2009, Cannabis Culture complained about Jack Layton's opposition to completely legalized marijuana. Although Layton once stated that marijuana was a "wonderful substance" and that it should be legalized, his position was aimed more toward an "open conversation" about possible decriminalization. On a personal level, Layton probably supported legalization, but he never allowed his personal beliefs to dictate his leadership of the NDP. Just like Jack Layton and unlike Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair has been open to decriminalizing marijuana, but not legalizing it

Terrorism And Leadership

Just like Thomas Mulcair did on October 22nd, Jack Layton would have stood with Stephen Harper and said something very similar and non-partisan. "I stand here tonight in solidarity, side-by-side with my colleagues, with our Prime Minister and with all Canadians. This attack struck with sudden and deadly violence...It was intended to make us more fearful of our neighbours and less confident in ourselves. But it has failed," Mulcair said in a statement just hours after the incident in Ottawa. 

There is no way to know whether Jack would have called the events in Ottawa a terrorist attack or a crime.

Hope And Optimism

Just before he died, Jack Layton wrote a letter to Canadians in which he said hope and optimism are stronger than fear and anger. To the dismay of many NDP supporters, Justin Trudeau used Jack Layton's words against the NDP and Thomas Mulcair following two by-elections that resulted in no changes in seats. 

"The NDP is no longer the hopeful, optimistic party of Jack Layton. It is the negative, divisive party of Thomas Mulcair," Trudeau said. He then declared that the Liberals were the new party of hope and optimism. Almost immediately, Twitter and social media exploded. Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, called Trudeau's remarks surprising and disappointing.

Jack Layton would have frowned upon Trudeau's use of his words. Trudeau took Layton's inspirational, non-partisan message and turned it into a divisive and partisan political attack against Thomas Mulcair. 

If he were somehow able to posthumously hear Justin recite his words of hope and optimism in such a negative and divisive attack, Jack Layton would probably choose optimism over anger. Instead of being angry or disappointed, Jack would expect that Canadians could see past Justin Trudeau's efforts to divide them for political gain. He would hope to see his supporters ignore Trudeau's political ploys and use their better judgment to discount him as a viable alternative to Stephen Harper. 

When in doubt, those who chose to support Jack Layton and the NDP in 2011 should ask themselves what Jack Layton would say. How would their beloved leader have responded to the Liberal Party's new leader and his efforts to become Prime Minister? Would Jack Layton think that Justin Trudeau is capable of delivering hope and optimism?