VANCOUVER - He died almost two years ago, but every day in British Columbia’s election campaign Jack Layton seems to make some kind of appearance, whether it be in a stump speech, a ghost-like moment or a question, reflection or thought from a voter.
It’s almost as if he’s sitting there on the campaign bus watching things unfold.
The federal New Democrat Party leader died in August 2011, but his presence, influence and legacy are part of the provincial campaign that has Adrian Dix’s B.C. New Democrats pressing ahead in what is becoming a tightening race with Christy Clark’s Liberals.
“Do any of Jack Layton’s beliefs carry on in you?” a Kamloops high school student asked Dix during an impressive classroom gathering where he faced a wide range of questions that included his thoughts on teen abortions.
Dix, who speaks regularly about Layton’s political legacy in his campaign speeches, tells the student he didn’t know Layton well personally, but was greatly influenced by his political style.
“Here’s what Jack did that I’m trying to do,” said Dix. “What he did, I think, in his life and campaign was he refused to be negative about other people.”
Dix said the Liberals have attacked him personally prior and during the campaign, but he’s held off, just like Layton did.
(“Christy Clark) she’s a good person,” he said. “I’m not going to run her down in television ads. That belief about Jack Layton that you say what you believe and that you don’t run other people down to do it, that’s at the core of what we’re trying to do here.”
Dix tells the student it took Layton four elections before the 2011 result that saw the NDP sweep Quebec and become Canada’s official Opposition.
“And just as he broke through, of course, he passed away. It was very really tragic.”
Dix regularly mentions the Layton legacy and political accomplishments at his nightly rallies — tying his message to Layton’s achievements.
“What Jack did is what we need to continue,” Dix told a Vancouver audience at the start of the campaign. “That idea that politics, which is to make it more open, more generous, to bring people in, all the people in this room and beyond this room.
“When people say to me, as they frequently do in the media, you can’t win by not responding to vicious personal attacks, I say, ‘Jack Layton did.’”
Anne McGrath says she can feel Layton’s presence in the Dix campaign.
McGrath worked with Layton for more than a decade, as one of his NDP leadership chiefs and also as his chief of staff in Ottawa. She is working on the Dix campaign and is a regular passenger on the campaign bus.
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