When I was first elected to city council, I knew absolutely nothing about politics and looked around for someone from whom I might learn. I settled on two Toronto city councillors, Joe Mihevc and Jack Layton and travelled to Toronto to talk to them. They were both of great help. At one point Joe and I even exchanged assistants so that my staff could bring back new ways of doing things.
Jack helped us get Ottawa’s pilot light rail (O-Train) started and we became friends as he did with so many people he met in his travels. When he finished his term as President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), I presented him with a monster Ottawa tulip – to make him smile. I was on the FCM board; we worked hard and we had fun. His last words to me, on leaving, were, ‘we’ve got to have a beer at the Rainbow again, Clive.’
The curious thing is once he was Leader of the NDP, I saw much less of him even though he worked within shouting distance of Ottawa City Hall. I missed his presence on the municipal scene. At one meeting of the FCM, we had formed a coalition of progressive councillors and sure enough, Jack was there, giving advice, helping out. He was like leaven in the municipal bread, making it lighter, faster, better.
I learned much from him. The first and most important was that whatever you did had to be anchored in hope. Forget about your opponents. Run on principle and the hope you will have the chance to make those principles real. This is what I did and never regretted a moment of my municipal career. One of the very best parts was Jack Layton.