Opinion: Jagmeet Singh is trying to channel Jack Layton’s spirit and it feels tacky

Chris Campbell

I have no doubt that Burnaby South MP and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh sincerely admires Jack Layton – the man who led the party to a political breakthrough in 2011.

But what is happening today in Toronto just feels tacky and a little desperate.

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It’s the anniversary of Layton’s death at the age of 61 from cancer, just a few months after he led the party to the election of 103 members of Parliament.

The NDP announced that Singh, Layton’s wife Olivia Chow and son Mike Layton, a Toronto city councillor, will pay a visit to the Jack Layton statue in Toronto, Ont.

If Singh had just privately visited the statue with Layton’s family and paid tribute, then I would have respected that a lot more than what is being done later today.

No, instead of being private, the NDP is turning it into what the party calls a “photo op” - with Singh riding a tandem bike with Chow to the statue, where they will commemorate Layton’s legacy.

It just feels a little greasy to trade on the legacy of someone like this. If it was any other year, it wouldn’t bother me so much, but this is an election year so it feels crass. It’s campaigning on the spirit of a dead man. I should note that my words are not meant to criticize either Chow or Mike Layton. If they want to pay tribute, I’m all for that.

The problem I have with Singh on this issue is that Jack Layton isn’t here to speak for himself. He’s using the ghost of a dead man (perhaps the most popular in NDP history) to inject a spark into his flagging campaign. As I said, during an election campaign you can’t simply say it’s about commemorating a legacy – it’s always about the campaigning. And the NDP did call it a “photo op.”

The idea might also backfire because some NDP supporters and undecided voters might look at what Layton did (pull off a miracle, especially in Quebec) and what Singh is doing (languishing in third place and possibly getting wiped out in Quebec) and feel the comparison isn’t too flattering to the current party leader.

I hope it was worth it.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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