Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, shares his thought on the passing of Jack Layton
I came to know Jack Layton when I worked at the Canadian Offices of the Building and Construction Trades Department AFL-CIO in Ottawa. We worked on a number of issues together.
Issues such as tool allowances, EI waiting periods for apprentices, common standards for apprenticeship training, inter-provincial travel allowances for construction workers to name but a few. Jack was always willing to listen and advocate on behalf of Canadians working in the construction industry.
On issues where we could not agree, he was forthright, but respectful of the fact that individuals can disagree without being disagreeable. With Jack you always know what he was prepared to do on different issues. And, when he agreed on a policy matter, he would take it on with dogged determination.
It is rare, at least in my life, to meet anyone with the energy Jack Layton had. His Blackberry was his constant companion. He was forever sending messages to his colleagues, his staff, his associates and his friends. On more than one occasion, I saw him standing in the security check line at the Ottawa Airport keying in a last minute message to someone, somewhere.
I had the opportunity to meet with Jack a number of times after returning to B.C. On a couple of occasions, I drove Jack and the person who was staffing him back to his hotel so he might get an hour or two of what I thought was “down time” before his next event. I was surprised to learn from the staff person that there was no down time in his schedule. The break was to allow Jack time at the exercise room in the hotel.
How strangely ironic then, that a man who took the time to look after himself would fall victim to such an insidious disease. And, how unfortunate for our country that the disease took him at a time when he, as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, would have been most effective.
Regardless of the partisan ideology we hold as individuals, I think Canadian politics would have been especially well served had Jack had the opportunity to debate Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons. There would have been diverse opinions expressed. They would have respectfully challenged the tenets of the others’ philosophical foundation. I believe they would have elevated the standard of Canadian politics.
I will miss Jack Layton as the leader of the party I choose to support. I will miss him as the politician with whom I could discuss construction related issues. I will miss him as a friend. And finally, I will miss the opportunity lost in not having Jack lead the Official Opposition.
Tom Sigurdson in the executive director of the British Columbia/Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council. Tom is also a member of the Journal of Commerce Editorial Advisory Board. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.