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How Jack Layton made decisions - and memories

NDP Leader Jack Layton plays the piano in an airport lounge as he prepares to depart St. John's on Sept. 12, 2008.

ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press

In early 2008, I invited Jack Layton and his core team of advisers to my home for dinner, and a talk about politics.

Specifically, I hoped we would make a decision about a proposal we had been kicking around in the party for some months.

The proposal: build out from "representational politics" and explicitly run a campaign on the idea that Jack Layton wanted to be prime minister. We wanted a mandate to form a government; and we had a set of prudent, responsible, progressive and much-needed proposals we wanted to implement. In other words, directly challenge the blue and red teams for their franchises as governing parties.

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The implications were not small, in a number of ways. There was much to say on both sides of this matter, and much of it was said over that dinner.

Jack Layton listened to the advice politely, and then spoke up.

"I'm not quite sure why we're debating this," he said. "I've always run to be prime minister, I've always believed our goal was to form a government, and I've always thought we should frame our proposals so that we'd have a mandate to implement them if we had the numbers in the House."

He then turned to my then 10-year-old son, listening to all of this with wide eyes.

"Hey, do you play the piano?"

Not yet, but he'd like to, my son answered.

"Let's go take a look at your piano."

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So Jack Layton and my son left the dinner table for our living room. And a few minutes later our home was filled with lively piano music and the voices of a federal party leader and a 10-year-old boy singing a duet, fairly loudly.

This was two things.

It was just one small example of how Jack Layton reached out to people – including very young people – to give them moments they would never forget. This is our favourite memory of Jack, my wife and I agreed Monday morning after learning that he had passed away.

And it was the nicest possible way for Jack Layton to let his campaign team know that their meeting was over and that a decision had been made.

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