Good luck Yvonne

The Compass - - OPINION -

I was in On­tario sit­ting be­side a lake just out­side Al­go­nquin Park when I heard the news about Jack Lay­ton. One of the peo­ple in our group had just re­ceived an email. Jack was step­ping aside. Hav­ing just fin­ished beat­ing one cancer, an­other had ap­peared and he needed time off to fight it. He said he would be back for the Fall ses­sion in the House of Com­mons.

Mes­sages other peo­ple re­ceive on their smart phones from still other peo­ple you don’t know, and re­peated to you ver­bally, need con­fir­ma­tion.

It was sad news but I wanted to delve deeper be­fore I ac­cepted it fully. In a nearby town I bought a Globe and Mail. The front page photo of an ema­ci­ated Lay­ton was shock­ing, and all the con­fir­ma­tion I needed. The man was clearly ill.

No par­tic­u­lar fan of the man as a politi­cian, I was im­pressed by the star­tling surge the NDP had pulled off to be­come the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion fol­low­ing May’s feder- al elec­tion. Now, see­ing Jack’s thin and trou­bled face star­ing up at me from the shiny pa­per of the Globe and Mail, I was struck by a feel­ing of sad­ness for the man.

After so many years in the willder­ness, Lay­ton had achieved a sur­pris­ing suc­cess only to have his mo­ment of joy plucked from him by ill­ness.

When I heard the news that Yvonne Jones was step­ping down as leader, I was struck by the same sad­ness.

It’s re­ally not part of my job de­scrip­tion as a car­toon­ist to em­pathize with politi­cians, but rather to make fun of them. To do that you have to keep your dis­tance. Ev­ery now and again though, some­one comes along who makes pro­fes­sional stand­off­ish­ness more dif­fi­cult.

The first thing that struck me about Yvonne Jones was her plain­speak­ing. Over the years, pay­ing at­ten­tion to what politi­cians say has been part of what I needed to do for my work. Not just what they say but how they look when they were say­ing it. Some politi­cians speak in a man­ner that is hard to un­der­stand. That can be be­cause they are not clear thinkers or be­cause they are try­ing to hide the truth from the pub­lic. Jones doesn’t do that, be­cause she thinks clearly and she’s hon­est. The pierc­ing blue eyes framed by the heavy black rims of her glasses con­nect di­rectly to the lis­tener and de­liver her mes­sage with clar­ity and em­pha­sis.

She doesn’t need to shout to con­vince the au­di­ence of her sin­cer­ity. In fact that is one of the things that I ad­mire most about her. In the Wil­liams years as she stood in the House of Assem­bly, day after day, across the floor from a howl­ing mob en­cour­aged by the premier with the high­est ap­proval rating since records have been kept, she re­mained calm. Even­tu­ally the speaker would call the house to or­der and the quiet pre­ci­sion and mea­sured pace of her words made a stark con­trast with the high speed , high volume up­roar op­po­site, try­ing to drown out her mes­sage.

Over the long haul, this sort of rough treat­ment from the huge gov­ern­ment ma­jor­ity might have made her an­gry, but the re­verse was true. Her dis­play of calm seemed to anger the mem­bers across the aisle, par­tic­u­larly the premier who at times seemed to be in need of emer­gency anger man­age­ment in­ter­ven­tion.

Then the cancer struck and my ad­mi­ra­tion in­creased. As soon as she could Jones re-ap­peared in the House loaded to the two eyes with chemo and cooked by radiation. By sheer force of will she pushed her­self on­ward, ap­pear­ing in a mag­a­zine with all her hair shorn; a very gutsy move.

Ear­lier this month she an­nounced that she was step­ping aside, not like Lay­ton be­cause the cancer had re­turned, but like Jack, be­cause the treat­ment had ex­hausted her im­mune de­fences. Her doc­tor warned her that to carry on at the pace re­quired to go for a win in the up­com­ing elec­tion, the only pace she knows, would do her harm.

She will run to keep her seat in Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair and I’m sure all New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans wish her a com­plete re­cov­ery to her for­mer strength. This prov­ince needs her voice. Peter Pick­ers­gill is a writer and artist liv­ing in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay.

His col­umn weeks.




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