A month ago on this blog, I wrote an open letter to Jack Layton in the wake of his announcement that he’d decided to step down from his duties as Leader of the Opposition to focus on his cancer treatment. It spoke of the hope, that very real belief that I shared with a lot of Canadians that Jack and his moustache would be back in Parliament at the end of the summer; but now that we know how his story unfolded, that hope smacks more of denial.
When I started chemo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2001, I was nineteen years old — one of the few patients under fifty at my cancer centre. A social worker put me in email contact with Rachel, a twenty-two year old with a brain tumour who was undergoing treatment at the same time. Rachel described her cancer in a message to me, explaining that her doctors gave her a one-in-twenty chance of surviving five years. With my own nine-in-ten survival rate, I was floored. She followed her explanation with, “Oh well, we’ll see how things go.” She assured me that she would one day marry her boyfriend. I don’t know if it was denial or hope, or if those two things are the same, but I agreed that she would.
We stayed in touch for a few months and shared funny stories of hair loss and the awkward but usually endearing things said by people who don’t know what to say, but as we both carried on with our treatments our emails dropped off. Six months into my treatment I was told my cancer was gone. A month later I got an email from Rachel’s boyfriend letting me know she’d passed away. (more…)
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election. (more…)
I think I speak for most, if not all, Canadians when I mutter “damn it” and sigh heavily.
The reason Canadians of all political leanings paused at your announcement yesterday is because cancer has an eerie but largely unspoken grasp on everyone. Few among us are untouched by the disease, and this latest news of yours is a reminder that life has a way of shaking even the sturdiest of foundations, especially, it seems, when we could really use the stability. A person can’t swing a CT scanner in this country without hitting someone who either has or has had, or knows some who has or has had, cancer. Very little shock lingers after an announcement like yours because disbelief is quickly ousted by a familiar sense of disappointment — not again.
Any oncologist will tell you that cancer is not a single disease; it’s a blanket term for a type of disease that takes on many different forms and implications. Today, while some observers dig around to figure out what particular kind of cancer you’re battling now, others among us know it really doesn’t matter. Any cancer survivor will tell you that cancer is cancer. Regardless of who you are, how old you are, where you are, and what the sickness interrupts: it’s cancer. (more…)
With another month begun, many Canadians are once again practicing the common ritual of settling into new rental and temporary homes. One notable Canuck, however, is biding his time to make a move that seemed unlikely, if not impossible, only a few years — and several federal elections — ago.
Jack Layton has already moved on up in Canadian politics, becoming the Leader of the Official Opposition during last month’s Conservative landslide. Sometime after Parliament breaks for the summer, he will become the first NDP boss to take up residence in Stornoway, the thirty-four-room mansion that serves as the opposition leader’s official residence. (First, though, he’ll need to figure out where it is: as recently as May 23, Layton denied knowing the house’s exact location.)
Built for a grocer in 1913, Stornoway sits on nearly one acre at 541 Acacia Avenue, in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood. Early on, the house switched hands a few times before being loaned to Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, who lived there in exile during World War II. In 1946, a private trust fund was set up to purchase Stornoway and house the leader of the opposition in style and dignity. When that money ran out in 1970, the government bought the property for the excellent price of $1. (more…)
Hi, my name is Sally, and I’ll be leading our Political Pilates class today.
I know you’re all busy drumming up those last-minute votes this weekend, so I appreciate all the party leaders showing up today. Is anyone here new to Pilates? Mr. Harper? Welcome! You might want to take off your hat, though. Oh, sorry, I thought you were wearing a hat. Mr. Ignatieff, we’re going to start in a sitting position. Yes, rise up, please. Mr. Duceppe, I can see you need to work on your core strength. And Mr. Layton, I know you’re recovering from surgery, so please respect your limits. Yes, that’s a very impressive handstand, but the others need to work up to that level, okay? And you might find that hockey jerseys aren’t ideal for Pilates.
Before we begin, make sure you have your styrofoam noodle, your rubber exercise band, and some light weights. Mr. Ignatieff, please stop hitting Mr. Harper with your noodle. The Parliamentary Pilates class is down the hall. The rubber bands are for streeetching the truth… Mr. Harper, you might want to use two… and the weights are for bulking up the military, especially our fighter planes. Everybody set? Mr. Layton, please, no harmonica playing in class.
First, let’s cover some basics. Political Pilates focuses on developing the core values of your party, without sacrificing flexibility. We’ll also be paying close attention to how you breathe — and in Mr. Harper’s case, to whether you breathe. Just kidding! Hey, you’re giving me those icy eyes now. Everyone, look at Mr. Harper’s eyes — see the focus there? I want that kind of focus in your lower abdominals. (more…)
I am not sure if it was ever any different, but in my living political memory elections have never been about ideas, but images. They have never been about substance; they’ve been about style and distraction. They’ve been about making fun of Jean Chrétien’s face or petting a cat because people who pet cats poll as nicer. They’ve been about keeping people’s eyes off the issues of the day and on things like who is in and who is out of the televised debate — never mind that the debate will wind up being a scripted absurdist dramedy of rehearsed monologues spoken over top of one another. Elections have become a contest to see who can make the most outlandish number of promises. And thanks to the increasing frequency of our being subjected to such foolish campaigns, Canadians are rightfully growing a little discouraged by it all.
You see, Jack — may I call you Jack? — your main competitors in this race are populists. By default they appeal to different populations more than others, and they are desperate to expand their appeal so their party can get nicer offices after May 2. As Police Chief Grady said in the movie Super Troopers (which I am sure you appreciate for its sheer volume of moustached heroes): “desperation is a stinky cologne.” You are up against two pungent gentlemen, Misters Harper and Ignatieff, who would each throw the other’s supporters under their own campaign buses if it would mean a bump in the polls.
Just the other day, Mr. Harper promised Newfoundland and Labrador a loan guarantee for the development of the Lower Churchill Falls power project if he were elected (notwithstanding the fact that this is likely to happen, whatever shape the government might take). Meanwhile, Mr. Ignatieff promised hundreds of millions for childcare, because everyone can agree that babies are cute but not very good at taking care of themselves. Tomorrow will bring more of the same sort of attempts to buy a few votes with a few billion in promises. (more…)