Why Jack Layton needed a human shield

Mitchel Raphael on why Jack Layton needed a human shield

Elizabeth May

Politicians with bad hips

At Toronto’s 31st annual Pride Parade it was all about party leaders in rickshaws. Green Leader Elizabeth May rode in one as she has in every parade since having a hip replaced in 2007. This time, NDP Leader Jack Layton, who still walks with a cane after hip surgery, was pulled in one covered in rainbow flags. His team was prepared for all the people who insist on spraying politicians with huge water guns—a nightmare for anyone with a BlackBerry. At one point Layton’s wife, MP Olivia Chow, took a water cannon shot in the back to protect him. Chow then opened a rainbow umbrella to deflect further H20 assaults from Layton’s left flank; a volunteer opened a huge orange umbrella to protect him on the right. May is waiting to have surgery on her other hip and says after that she will be able to walk in the Pride Parade. The Liberal MP presence was diminished this year. Interim leader Bob Rae and Carolyn Bennett were the only two elected Grit MPs. Rob Oliphant, who was defeated in the last election, was also in attendance. Rae’s wife, Arlene Perly Rae, demonstrated powerful arm strength as she tossed bead necklaces into the crowd. One shot accidentally hit a photographer and she quickly went over and apologized.

‘Screw the cottage’

There was much anger and campy commentary over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s snub of all Pride festivities. (Ford said he always goes to his cottage for Canada Day weekend and would not be attending Pride.) Former Toronto mayors were well represented. David Miller and Barbara Hall marched and Mel Lastman sent a letter that was read at the Metropolitan Community Church service before the parade began. Ford mockers were out in force. One man dressed as Ford held a sign saying “Screw the cottage.” Many wore Ford masks. “More people wore them on their ass than their face, which sums it up,” noted Fab magazine associate editor Drew Rowsome.

Rick Mercer makes it in time

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, whose youngest son Brendan was gay (he was killed in a car accident in 2010), marched for the second year wearing a Maple Leafs jersey with his son’s name on the back. He had just returned from Afghanistan with Rick Mercer. Mercer thought he was not going to make it back in time from Afghanistan, where he and Burke celebrated Canada Day with the troops. They managed to get to Toronto with about an hour to spare. Burke was rushing to get to the parade and Mercer said, “If Burke can do it so can I.” So with very little sleep they both marched with the Toronto chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Stornoway smokers sent far away

A few weeks ago, NDP Leader Jack Layton got the keys to Stornoway, the official residence of the leader of the official Opposition. But it was not until last week that he and Olivia actually slept in the house. The couple’s mothers, Doris Layton and Ho Sze Chow, were invited up for the official moving in. That night there was a garden party for the media in a large tent in the backyard. Smokers were sent to the end of the driveway. When former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion was living at Stornoway, smokers were allowed to indulge just outside the tent at his garden party. Orange Crush and Canadian soda from the Pop Shoppe was served. One NDP volunteer made chocolate Jack Layton moustaches for the occasion. Stornoway’s former chef, Josh Drache, who served under Dion and Michael Ignatieff, has been helping the NDP make the transition to Stornoway. It looks as if the housekeeper who started at Stornoway under John Turner and worked there for politicians like Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper will be staying. All NDP staff are unionized, though, so the housekeeper’s appointment still has to get union approval.

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