Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack Layton



Jack Layton as he appeared four weeks ago


I won't eulogize here. It is being done in many places already.

The only thing I will say is that Canadians are likely to be far less polite about privacy when it comes to the leaders of political parties in Canada. Not content will we be to have someone say to us, do you want me to show you by doing push-ups and then we demur from asking for medical records.

If Canada is going to make our political system all about the leaders and less about the party, then we are going to need to know a lot more about the health of those leaders.

We were told four weeks ago that Jack Layton would be back September 19. However, even our own eyes were saying: Whoa. However, we demurred when the question came up about what the extent of the cancer was. Private is what we were told.

That won't be good enough in the future. I think we will see a push for more health disclosure as we see in the States.

Layton was a courageous man and he was a man of conviction. However, we didn't know how bad things were. Transparency has been the hallmark of many a politician. It is going to have to start at the level of the personal. We will need to know the health of our political leaders.

9 comments:

One Man Committee said...

It's hard to argue with that. A succession of Prime Ministers, Premiers and party leaders have made party politics about the man or woman at the top, so it's only reasonable to expect full disclosure when it comes to important health issues.

Speaking of the political fallout from Jack Layton's tragic and untimely passing, do you think Ignatieff is kicking himself even more now for rushing into the 2011 election?

Reed Solomon said...

I disagree.

It's none of our business. We can be curious all we like, but theres no reason for us to be so invasive.

John Dobbin said...

OMC: Harper himself would have possibly called an election himself. He did it once contrary to the four year rule, why not twice?

Reed: Then we speculate which as we have seen in other countries can lead to instability.

Anonymous said...

Of all the party leaders none was as open, accessible, & public as Jack.

The View from Seven said...

I'm not so sure if a political leader's physical health is as important to know about as his/her mental health.

A prime minister or provincial premier could drop dead, but the machinery of government would continue to function with no greater disruption that it normally experiences when the writ is dropped. But if a politician's decisions are being tainted by the illusions, distortions and exaggerations of mental illness, it could have a more insidious effect on how the country is run.

I'm thinking here about the 2006 Duke University study which found that 18 out of 37 U.S. presidents studied suffered from problems which likely harmed their ability to make sound decisions, including depression and "anxiety, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and social phobia".

It probably doesn't help that the political lifestyle, with its crazy hours, on-the-go eating, high stress, and lack of personal or family time is not conducive to good mental health.

John Dobbin said...

Anon: This isn't an attack on Layton as it is pointing out that none of the elected officials is forthcoming on their health.

Twice now I have had city councillors who were terribly sick and died in office. Some were off the job with no word on what was going on.

Being open and accessible has to extend to health.

VOS: I put mental and physical health together. I totally agree. John McCain was show evidence he had no post trauma issues after being a POW.

Still, as I pointed out: I have had to city councillors who died in office. They were absent without explanation and the riding was left unrepresented as a result.

mrchristian said...

I disagree completely that we need to get more involved in the health of our political party leaders.

Sadly, diseases such as cancer are part of every day life and people have to carry with their business - that's true whether you're working at a grocery store or have a seat in the Commons.

Nobody should have to publicly put up a big black flag next to their name because of they have recently fought a disease or have been recently diagnosed with one.

Layton beat cancer once, when it returned who wasn't to say he couldn't beat it again ? When it became apparent that the fight was going to be all-consuming he stepped down. He did the right thing.

Party life and politics carries on.

John Dobbin said...

Mr.C: I understand the need for privacy. Twice though, I have been left without representation without explanation.

I think I have stated the case that we are apt to be less polite about demurring when someone says they are fit to govern. We are more likely to ask for proof.

John Dobbin said...

A last note: One of the reasons heath reports are issued in the U.S. by politicians is because the public has often been misled about the fitness of the person in office.

Woodrow Wilson had a series of strokes. His wife pretty much ran the country for 18 months.

In the city of Winnipeg, we have had a few terribly sick councillors who died in office. The assistants ran the offices but where it counted, in council votes, there was no one there.

It is tough saying that transparency is needed but it has to be done to stop speculation.