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The Passing of Jack Layton

I didn’t get Jack Layton! My most vivid memory of him was a short Question Period clip early in his career as NDP leader. He chastised the Canadian government for not negotiating with Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan. I wondered: “How does a champion of women’s rights envision himself negotiating with a political entity that will never accept the elevation of the status of women in its own backwards society?” I saw Jack as just another politician who either didn’t really understand the forces that shape our world or wanted to capitalize on cheap media clips to increase his influence in the political arena.

So I was perplexed at the state funeral for Jack Layton and even more perplexed at the magnitude of his public adoration. While commending his energy, eloquence, and enthusiasm for his political ideas and his rebuilding of the NDP during his leadership, I did not see a few months of being Leader of the Opposition as enough to warrant all this public adoration, something none of Canada’s current living ex-prime ministers are likely to receive at their state funerals. Not only that, Jack had a few more hills to climb to prove his political acumen. Would he have been able to hold his party caucus together, particularly its 59 young and inexperienced MPs from Quebec, and win the support of the Quebec voters in the next election? And while it was conceivable that he would have been the next prime minister, would he have been able to hold on to his current popularity after attaining the position? The examples of populist, upstart leaders being able to maintain their support when given the actual office that requires making controversial and unpopular decisions are very few.

So why did Canadians give Jack such a big sendoff? I offer an insight which is related to “Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG)”. In short, TDG is a replacement for the western democratic model. It takes power away from the political parties and the vested interests and ideologies that back them. It puts the decision-making process back on the people, calling more and better people into governance and giving them a consultative framework to resolve the issues that face society.

I have no problems getting people to the TDG website, and hence I have concluded the TDG concept has had its fair trial from the world’s citizenry. Despite the distrust, apathy, and cynicism within western democracies and despite the organic decision-making nature of the TDG, only four world citizens have told me that the TDG is a viable alternative.

As I listen to political discussions in my social conversations, political websites, and the recognized pundits in the mass media, I really sense the western democratic model is not only above reproach, it almost promises us that all societal issues can be fixed if we, the people, would only elect the right political leader or party. I call this the “Messiah Complex.”

The Messiah Complex provides a great explanation for the over-the-top mourning of Jack Layton: “Here lies the prime minister we Canadians (should have / could have / would have) had.” By passing away before being properly tested as a political leader, Jack comforts us in our beliefs that political messiahs are indeed possible — and we need only seek another overly ambitious citizen to fix our problems for us.

The TDG will never have such a messiah. Jack’s early passing has set the TDG back a few years. It’s too bad he didn’t become prime minister.

Published on 2011

The TDG Essay

Building a Kinder, Wiser Democracy