Mandy Gardner began writing for the Voice in 2005 with a focus on Canadian politics and cultural diversity. An occasional contributor at first, Mandy has since become a weekly contributor with her short news column, International News Desk, which focuses on a broad range of newsworthy topics from the current events pages that are just a little obscure. Watch for a new edition of this column in every Voice issue to find out what you may have missed in the conventional media. This article, about a night out with the NDP leader, was originally published on April 27, 2005.
The evening of April 2nd offered a unique opportunity to anyone willing to partake of it. Jack Layton invited the occupants of a packed Convocation Hall out for drinks. The invitation followed a superb lecture given by Dr. David Suzuki at the University of Toronto. The event was presented by Layton and his New Democratic Party (NDP) to gather support for their environmental Sustainability Plan.
It was a sold-out affair attended by university students, environmentalists and general left-wingers alike. David Suzuki was the main attraction, being one of Canada’s most beloved personalities; he was greeted with thunderous applause. Suzuki’s speech was well-received, giving the audience a sense of interconnection with each other and the world around them. Not surprisingly, the experience was rather reminiscent of an episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things.
After Suzuki had finished, Jack Layton took the stage and restated the importance of implementing the Kyoto Protocol in Canada. In the 7 years since this country signed on to Kyoto, the NDP is the only party to have drawn up a formal plan for its execution. Layton then suggested that the entire audience should join him at O’Grady’s Pub for a night of “partying and politics”!
O’Grady’s Pub is a regular hang-out for students at the University of Toronto as it is located on College Street just off-campus. Many people jumped at the chance to make a night of it with the local NDPs, creating both a friendly and congested atmosphere in the pub. “Our fearless leader” (as David Suzuki wittily referred to Layton) spent the evening with a smile on his face, a pint in his hand and a swarm of devotees surrounding him. All throughout the night, Jack could be seen debating policies with anyone prepared to confront him and no question was too simple or too complex.
Despite the lack of seating, more and more people managed to cram themselves into the rapidly shrinking space within the bar and take their chance to watch one of our official Opposition leaders at his local haunt. The employees at the pub joined in on the occasion, offering green drinks to all the true left-wingers.
As both leader of the NDP and Member of Parliament (MP) for Toronto-Danforth, Jack Layton has an enormous responsibility to Canadians at home and across the country. With all the stresses that must come from such a heavy workload, Layton did a great job of remaining socially available and connected to his constituency.
In effect, Pub Night created an ambience of capability; it showed that real people make up our government. Jack Layton is your average Canadian by night — having a drink with friends at a local bar, getting to know people over a game of pool. In the morning, however, he’s up early and off to unleash his policies on Parliament. The way he strives to achieve so much for the country and his district is in itself inspiring; the way he remains true to himself while reaching for his goals is even moreso.
Layton himself says, “We have to lead by example,” and he is certainly keeping to his word. No one could ever accuse this NDP leader of becoming the archetypal politician. Optimistically speaking, perhaps Layton will serve as an example to the other members of government as well as the citizens of Canada. Regardless, let’s hope to see more Pub Nights with this upbeat and idealistic character!