Asking someone to believe in the NDP over the last 10 years has felt like asking them to buy into the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. It's been this largely unseen thing infused with great intentions but little relevance. To the frustration of many, including me, the NDP has remained on the outside way outside. Further than that. So why care about the current leadership race that pits a few old-style NDPers that is, well-intentioned, little-known and rarely seen dull politicians against federal virgin and Toronto city councillor Jack Layton? Because the entire landscape of national politics is about to change in Canada, with most major parties about to get, or recently having gotten, new leaders.
And because many of the NDP's natural issues health care, education, social justice and the anti-globalization fight are embraced by millions of Canadians even if the little party with the 70s orange-coloured campaign signs isn't.
Also, after years of being bashed and squeezed, or at best ignored, by all levels of government, Toronto is at a crossroads where it's either on the verge of becoming the city we dream of or a decrepit, receding metropolis on the way down. A lifetime lefty, Layton has managed to break out of that limited constituency, and his work in and for the city has gone beyond his natural supporters.
As the unlikely president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, Layton has almost single-handedly put the care and well-being of our large urban centres back on the federal agenda. Just look at Liberal hopeful Paul Martin co-opting elements of Layton's crusade for the cities.
So consider Jack Layton. It's not a waste of time, and not supporting him could prove to be the waste of a great city and a great opportunity for a party with fantastic ideas but, until now, little likelihood of ever implementing them.