Notes on Jack's velvet switchblade

I was watching RDI coverage of Jack Layton’s passing this morning, and it was more than just heartening to hear Gilles Duceppe say a few kind words about the man. The former Bloc Québécois leader spoke of how he and Layton crossed paths in the parliamentary gym room, and how he was always impressed by Layton’s drive and grinny optimism. It was familiar because Duceppe spun a similar tale throughout the Bloc’s spring campaign—how he and Layton were practically drinking buddies, how they didn’t see eye to eye on Quebec but were  ideological doppelgangers otherwise—and it reminded me: wow. Duceppe is a guy who had a virtual monopoly of virtue over Quebec for upwards of two decades and whose jaundiced view of Ottawa (and the rest of the country) essentially set the political agenda for the province. As a sovereignist, his Québécois credentials were untouchable—or so it seemed, until little ol’ Jack came around.

And that was that for Duceppe. With his smile and his cane and his bons mots flowing out of his mouth in joual-inflected French, Layton threw Duceppe into unfamiliar territory. All of a sudden, and for the first time in his career, Duceppe had an adversary who couldn’t be made into a boogeyman—a man who was indestructably nice. Duceppe played catch up for the rest of the campaign, and on election day Jack as pleasant as ever slipped the knife into the Bloc, doing in one of the most dominant political forces in the province’s history. It was the only possible way to do in the party: with a smile.

You wonder who in the NDP could possibly continue Jack’s legacy of cheery political ferocity.

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