As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.
Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.
In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.
Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.
Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.
Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?
The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.
That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.
It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!
Why do people in high-profile positions spend taxpayer dollars as if it were their own? Don’t they know they will always get caught?
One American psychotherapist, Judith Acosta, tried to answer the question in an essay. She was blunt: Politicians, she says, are sociopaths.
It’s a tempting analysis, but having spent most of my adult life around politicians I am inclined towards a different, admittedly unscientific, assessment.
Politicians are (clearly) goal-driven. They tend to regard the universe as a win-lose proposition. They believe that, upon election or appointment, they have been admitted to another plane of existence, wherein (as Acosta says) the rules do not apply to them so much, or at all.
I’ve also found that they harbour deep resentments. Every day, they meet rich and powerful people who want things from them. Because they work hard, and they don’t have much of a life anymore, they feel — and my heart sank the first time I heard this now-storied phrase — they are entitled to their entitlements. Rules, begone.
That doesn’t make them sociopaths. They are, instead, next-door neighbours.
They see the grass on the other side, they see it is greener, and they want it.
So they go after it, and they don’t give a damn who is paying the bill.
Where did Chief Spence and Idle No More get off track? How did a movement that showed such promise lose so much momentum? Three reasons.
One, if you have a compelling message — and Idle No More inarguably did — stick to it. Have one “ask,” not 100. Idle No More lost the public because, after a while, no one could figure what it was about anymore.
Two, have a single spokesman saying one thing — not a disputatious chorus, all clamouring for time before the TV cameras and thereby creating communications chaos. At the start, Chief Spence was the face of the movement. Eventually, every other First Nations leader seemed to be trying to get in on the action, creating confusion about who led Idle No More, and what it hoped to achieve.
Thirdly and finally, don’t alienate the folks holding the microphones and notepads. The moment Chief Spence and her allies started to physically bar — or eject — reporters asking unwelcome questions, they were doomed. At the start, their main allies were the media. When Chief Spence lost them, she lost the larger war. Idle No More could have secured positive change — and may still. A few short weeks after it began, however, it has been hurt by too many messages, too many spokesmen and a grave miscalculation about the media.
For First Nations willing to pay heed, Idle No More offers lessons about how to do things. And how not to do them, too.
Over the years, I have advised many native bands. I have worked in communities almost as bad as Attawapiskat found in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I have advised successive governments — Jean Chretien’s, Paul Martin’s and Stephen Harper’s — about dealing with problems which are quite similar to Attawapiskat.
As the father to an aboriginal daughter, I was so proud to do that work, but I cannot tell you that I ever succeeded in what I tried to do.
I was a failure.
Now, in respect of our ongoing struggle to assist our aboriginal peoples, every federal government has had moments of which they can be proud. Chretien was, by all accounts, the finest Indian Affairs minister this country has ever seen.
Martin devoted himself to the Kelowna Accord, which would have assisted many native Canadians. Harper’s finest moment — the act which I believe history will always regard as his greatest success — was his apology to, and reparations for, those native children whose lives were destroyed in hellish residential schools.
But all of those governments, too, have ultimately been failures, as they have grappled with the issue that is Canada’s enduring shame — our relationship with those who were here first, the First Nations.
All those prime ministers have tried to prevent future Attawapiskats, and all have been unable to do so.
The blame — because that is what these sad situations typically become, exercises in blame-shifting — does not rest with governments alone. Aboriginal leaders, too, bear much of the responsibility for the ongoing crises faced by some (but by no means all) native communities.
Too often, I have been in reserves where black mould covered every surface, and the house had been condemned, but scores of children could be found living in it, peeking out at me through cracked windows and filthy curtains. While rumours circulated within the reserve about a band member who recently bought a big boat, or a big car.
Reading the paper, trying to understand the Attawapiskat situation, we shake our heads. The federal government only this week put the band in “third party management” — akin to trusteeship in a bankruptcy. But what took them so long?
Why did they pour millions into Attawapiskat for years, and only now decide that there was a problem? It defies sense.
Reading about Attawapiskat, we are reminded that such stories seem to come up all the time.
Two, three, four times a year, someone at a reserve calls up a reporter, and the terrible tales get told.
There is sameness to the stories — and there is sameness to the response.
Fingers get pointed across the aisle, the media write columns like this one, money gets spent, reports get written, and then everyone moves on.
Everyone forgets, until the next Attawapiskat happens.
There’s a understandable temptation, in the midst of stories like this one, to simply throw up our hands and call the problem one without a solution. To give up.
We cannot, cannot, do that. Right now, somewhere not far from where you live, there is a native child who is living in conditions to which you would not subject your dog.
Until we change that, all of us, this is not a country.
The other day in the hospital, Mark complained to me about his Twitter user name. He doesn’t like @coopermark and said it looked stupid. I replied to him that others have that form of username. When pressed who I was referring to, I said Warren Kinsella’s username on Twitter is @kinsellawarren. Mark asked who Kinsella was and I said, he helps Liberal’s win elections. Mark replied with, “So he hasn’t done much lately.”