2011 Hero: Jack Layton
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2011 Hero: Jack Layton

Nominated for: giving us such great reasons to miss him.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

At this point, you might think eulogizing Jack Layton once more to be redundant. After all, we already did that, along with many others. So we’re not going to use this space to talk about how we loved Jack or about what he meant to us. Let us not talk about who Jack Layton was—let us talk about what he did.

Jack Layton is one of our heroes because this year he rejuvenated the Canadian left. Absolutely nobody expected the Orange Crush in this year’s federal election except Jack Layton, who spent the best part of a decade in Quebec laying the groundwork to bring the NDP to triumphant victory there (and, as a bonus, crush the Bloc Quebecois into irrelevancy). Layton worked the long game and it paid off.

But it’s about more than just Quebec. In a year when the Liberal Party fell into disarray under the disastrous leadership of Michael Ignatieff—who failed to present himself as an alternative to anything at all—Jack Layton stepped up and reminded the country that, yes, there is an alternative to the minimalist politics of conservatism. He kept doing this right up to his death and even afterwards with his now-famous farewell note. The NDP leadership race is actually getting serious media attention for the first time quite possibly ever, and it is because of Jack Layton that Niki Ashton, Nathan Cullen, Martin Singh, and Romeo Saganash have a significant public platform in a way that Bev Meslo, Lorne Nystrom, and Pierre Ducasse never got in 2003 when Layton first won the big seat.

Jack Layton isn’t one of our Heroes this year because we miss him. It’s because this year, he gave us especially good reasons to miss him.