Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadians

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

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.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton


Maxime Bernier: Toward a proud, responsible Quebec

I normally don’t subscribe to the drivel on the National Post, but the tory MP Bernier does make a good point about Quebec

Maxime Bernier: Toward a proud, responsible Quebec
Posted: April 20, 2010, 9:30 AM by NP Editor
Maxime Bernier, Canadian politics

Political debates in Quebec have been dominated for several decades by the “national question.” It’s a legitimate debate, but a debate that’s not going anywhere and will probably not go anywhere for a long time to come. Lucien Bouchard said it recently, and polls also show it: Most Quebecers do not believe that Quebec will separate from Canada in the foreseeable future.

Despite this, since the 1970s, we’ve talked a lot about political independence, about the constitution, and we’ve held referendums. And meanwhile, we’ve built a system of economic dependence that’s become more and more elaborate.

Quebec has one of the biggest and most interventionist governments in North America, and one of the heaviest fiscal burdens. Quebec has the most far-reaching social programs. Quebec is the province that gives the most subsidies to businesses, artists and a host of other groups. And let’s not forget that Quebec is among the most rapidly aging societies in the world. This will increase the cost of social programs, and there will be fewer young people to pay for them.

Some weeks ago, we learned that Quebec ranks fifth among the most indebted societies in the industrialized world, not far behind Greece, which is currently going through a financial crisis. While we were debating independence, we accumulated an enormous debt and became dependent on borrowed money to fund an unsustainable level of public services.

We certainly have many reasons to be proud of our culture, of the evolution of our society during the past four centuries. But the political choices that were made have led us to a dead end. If we do not change direction soon, we’re going to hit a brick wall.

The Bloc Québécois was recently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Instead of discussing the real problems of Quebec, the Bloquistes prefer to continue debating a hypothetical project and trying to prove that our federal system is not working.

Gilles Duceppe made a fool of himself by comparing the separatist movement to the resistance against the Nazis in his anniversary speech. If the Bloquistes spent more of their energy trying to find solutions to the concrete challenges that we face instead of uttering such nonsense, perhaps we’d be in better shape as a society.

Mr. Duceppe also complained that Quebec does not get enough money from the federal government. He is fighting for Quebec independence, but laments that Quebec is not more economically dependent on the rest of Canada.

This year, Quebec will get $8.5-billion in equalization payments. That’s more than half of the $14-billion in the program. That money comes from richer provinces, such as Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

It’s true that other provinces, such as Manitoba and the three Maritime provinces, get even more equalization money per capita than Quebec. But that’s not an excuse. As a Quebecer, I am not proud that we are a poor province.

And our poverty’s not the rest of Canada’s fault. Unbridled state interventionism does not lead to prosperity. If it did, Quebec would be one of the richest places in North America.

Many studies have shown that the less its government intervenes in the economy, the more prosperous a society becomes. The Fraser Institute regularly compares the economic situation in the provinces and states of North America and has found a direct correlation between the level of economic freedom and prosperity. An analysis of 23 OECD countries over a period of 36 years has also shown that economic growth is inversely proportional to government spending. For every additional 10 percentage points of government spending as a proportion of GDP, economic growth is permanently reduced by 1% a year.

In the 1970s, Robert Bourassa invented the term “profitable federalism.” That was an unfortunate concept to put forward as a way to defend federalism. For many Quebecers now, the more money we extract from the rest of Canada, the more profitable federalism is deemed to be.

Both federalist and separatist provincial governments use the threat of separation to try to get more money. Even when the amounts being sent by Ottawa increase, the reaction in Quebec City is always that it’s not enough — we need more, or else this is the proof that federalism is not profitable.

The federalism that I wish for is not a profitable one, it’s responsible. On the masthead of my blog, there are two words in large characters: liberty and responsibility. I favour as much individual freedom as possible. But when you are free, you must also be responsible for your actions. You can enjoy the fruits of your labour, but you must also bear the consequences of your bad decisions.

The same is true for governments. A responsible federalism is a federalism that rests on the principle of subsidiarity. This means issues should be handled by the lowest competent authority, the one closest to the people. Each one should fund its own programs and decide for itself its own priorities as an autonomous entity.

This way, each province, each community, develops according to its own personality. This allows local particularities to be expressed. And each is responsible for its own policies. If one has bad policies, others cannot be held responsible and should not be forced to help pay the bill.

Many people in the rest of the country perceive Quebecers as a bunch of spoiled children who are never satisfied and always ask for more. This perception has some basis in reality. It derives from 40 years of futile debates over independence; 40 years of irresponsible policies adopted by one Quebec government after the other living beyond their means and getting us deeper into debt; 40 years of demands to extract yet more money from the pockets of our fellow citizens in the rest of Canada.

We must stop presenting a false choice between independence and profitable federalism. We must also put an end to policies that lead to our impoverishment and must stop expecting the rest of Canada to bail us out.

Imagine if, instead of exerting ourselves to get more money from the rest of Canada, Quebecers aimed at something more positive: becoming sufficiently rich that we’d no longer receive equalization money.

Imagine if, instead of pointlessly debating the merits of political independence, we tried instead to live within our means and to get out of our economic dependence.

Imagine if, instead of having the Bloquistes always trying to impede our progress within Canada, we had a group of conservative MPs teaming up with all those who want a more decentralized federalism.

That’s the alternative that we have to offer Quebecers: the vision of a proud, responsible and autonomous Quebec.

Maxime Bernier is the Member of Parliament for Beauce.

Nova Scotia Couple Nabbed After Mistakenly Straying Into U.S.

A Nova Scotia couple took a wrong turn in Stanstead, Que., and mistakenly drove into the United States last weekend before being picked up by border police.

They started to suspect something was amiss when they noticed a huge increase in their sense of freedom and well-being. It soon became clear that they had wandered into “The Greatest Country In The World.”

“There were a lot of eagles, fireworks, and more spangles than you could shake a flag at” said the husband, adding that he spotted Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln riding on a horse together with Paul Revere.

“It was incredible,” said his wife. “There was every kind of fried food you could dream of, and Oprah gave us both makeovers.”

Unfortunately, during the welcoming party the woman became ill and did not have the $24,000 for a necessary medical procedure, so the couple returned to Canada.

“Damn, we almost had them,” said a disappointed Walmart greeter.

Lucien Bouchard: “La souveraineté n’est pas réalisable”

At a conference yesterday, described as his first major public appearance since his resignation in 2001, former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard made quite a splash, stating that sovereignty for Quebec is not feasible:

L’ancien premier ministre Lucien Bouchard croit que le Québec doit embrasser un nouveau rêve, trouver «le tremplin de notre nouveau départ». Mais ce n’est pas la souveraineté: ce projet n’est pas une solution puisqu’il n’est pas réalisable.

Lucien Bouchard participait à un forum sur les 100 dernières années de vie politique au Québec, organisé par l’Institut du Nouveau Monde dans le cadre du centenaire du Devoir. C’était pour l’ancien premier ministre une première sortie publique importante depuis sa démission en 2001. Il a insisté sur la puissance du rêve pour une nation, de l’importance de voir grand comme ce fut le cas lors de la Révolution tranquille, le moment clé des 100 dernières années au Québec, selon lui.

Mais ce rêve libérateur, ce n’est pas celui de la souveraineté. «À vue de nez, non. Pauline Marois ne veut pas faire de référendum. Elle sait que ce n’est pas le temps. Le monde n’en veut pas à court terme; ça veut dire plusieurs années», a-t-il dit en réponse aux questions des journalistes. M. Bouchard est persuadé qu’il ne verra pas un autre référendum sur la souveraineté de son vivant. L’ancien chef péquiste est toujours souverainiste, mais la souveraineté est devenue une question hypothétique; elle n’est donc pas une solution aux problèmes du Québec.

Reprenant des éléments du discours des Lucides, Lucien Bouchard a dit qu’il fallait que le Québec «secoue sa torpeur et se remette en marche», qu’il accepte de voir les obstacles qui lui barrent la route, comme le fort taux de décrochage scolaire, le piètre financement des universités et les tarifs d’électricité trop bas. (Translated version)Bottom line? Quebec needs a new collective dream to embrace but in his view, sovereignty is not the answer. Sovereignty, he says, has become a hypothetical question, not a solution to the problems of Quebec. He doesn’t believe he’ll see another referendum on the question in his lifetime.

This is a welcome thing to hear coming as it does from one of the lions of the sovereignty movement over the past twenty years, that makes it all the more significant. It was also delivered in a diplomatic enough manner that makes it difficult for the PQ and the Bloc to be in too much disagreement with the statement. He affirms that he is “toujours souverainiste,” as would they, yet puts it in the realm of the hypothetical. In a candid freebie moment, would Marois and Duceppe not do the same? Bouchard is probably just speaking to an undercurrent in Quebec, a belief that the sovereignty movement remains a defining core element for the PQ and the Bloc yet largely in a symbolic way. The federal Clarity Act entered the picture and has forever altered the landscape for the separation question. It’s not smart to ever write separatism off as a factor in Quebec, but Bouchard’s characterization of the goal as a hypothetical maintains the ongoing calm on that front. It’s a big statement yet it really just affirms the status quo.

The other big news out of Bouchard’s appearance is a dig at the PQ for their present dalliance with intolerance, characterizing the party as wanting to pick up where the ADQ left off. That aspect may get more attention given its immediacy as an issue as opposed to the above.

No reporting here on whether the Bloc’s role in Ottawa came up or not, the forum being devoted to the past 100 years of political life in Quebec. Seems like that would have been a logical topic of discussion, how the Bloc’s presence in Ottawa has shifted the federal voting dynamic in Quebec and its future. Oh well. Sounds like Bouchard was in a mood to make waves too. Guess we politicos will have to be content with the above pronouncement, in and of itself quite remarkable.