My maternal grandparents homesteaded in Saskatchewan in the very early years of the 20th Century. They ended up settling and raising a family in Broadview which is in the southeast part of the province. My mom and her siblings grew up on a farm near Broadview in that rather bucolic age that we think of as Canada’s agrarian past, Laurier’s vision made reality.
My grandfather prospered and had business dealings as far away as Chicago and Vancouver. From all accounts he was a capitalist of the first order. At the time of his death in the 1950’s, actually a month after I was born, he was speculating in real estate in Vancouver. Had he lived a few years longer I probably would have been born rich. He didn’t, I wasn’t. Too bad, so sad.
Prosperous as he was, in the 30’s, that decade when it didn’t rain or snow on the prariries (according to my mother), my grandfather being a man of conscience, couldn’t sit back and watch his neighbours lose their farms, or worse, starve, without taking action. So he and other like minded men founded the CCF party that is now the NDP. My grandfather, William A. Hunter, also helped start the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.
When I was growing up, we lived in Alan Blakeny’s constituency. He was one of the great Premiers of any province in the history of Canada. The NDP, and the principles that the party espoused, were taken very seriously in my family.
Throughout my adult life I have been a supporter of the party at least in a philosophical sense. Sometimes, especially in Alberta, one has to be savvy and vote for a candidate who at least has a chance, because in Calgary at least, a candidate for the NDP has the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell. But it doesn’t really matter who else you vote for. Out here, the Conservatives always win.
On Monday evening, I happened to be in Ottawa, staying in a hotel not far from Parliament Hill. I saw on the news that there was a vigil for Jack Layton so I walked over and paid my respects. All the candles and flowers and bottles of Orange Crush and signs made up a beautiful tribute to Mr. Layton.
It was sometime late Monday evening that I saw the letter he wrote, and was deeply touched by his final words:
Love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
Tonight, there was a vigil in Tompkins Park, just south of the Mount Royal neighbourhood in Calgary that has to be THE bastion of conservatism in Canada. It was heartening to see a good crowd forming, as unlikely as it was. Maybe the facade is finally starting to crack.
So many writers have used Mr. Layton’s death to promote their own thoughts and ideas and I have no wish to do so in writing this, other than to say that I admire the man, and I believe he has made a tremendous impact on the way we see ourselves as Canadians. He has not answered many questions that linger in his death, but he at least posed them.
I know my grandfather would have been proud.