I'll lead off with my own thoughts:
Jack is to be commended for three things over all else:
- He turned the NDP party around completely. What was an afterthought, the black sheep of Canadian politics, became a true force in the most recent elections, a true opposition to Stephen Harper's PC government.
- He rallied Canada's youth, a new generation of voters. Without the rampant support of students and the geek chic of facebook and the internet, I highly doubt the NDP could have achieved what has so recently. Major kudos to him for rallying the students, the gamers, the 18-25 year olds, the people who would typically ignore politics, and got them to the polls in droves. Sure, Harper may unjustly be a target of their hatred and bile, but the show of force displayed by the NDPs in the last federal election can only be seen as an absolute victory for the youth, the ignored.
then, of course... there's this:
So often we look at our government and think they are out of reach, out of touch, or elitist. This was just one fine example of how human they really are.
There's a letter from Jack over at The Globe and Mail, but I'll copy and paste his last message for all Canaidans here...
"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world." - Jack Layton
I'm a Harper supporter, for reasons I won't get into, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for Mr. Layton and the great work he's done in the name of the Canadian people. Rest easy Jack, I only hope whoever follows in your footsteps is half as capable.
NDP Leader Jack Layton, who led Canada's Official Opposition, has died at his Toronto home at age 61 after a battle with cancer.
Layton died peacefully early Monday, according to a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael Layton.
"We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones," the statement read.
Details about funeral arrangements will be forthcoming, it said. The family released a letter from Layton to Canadians just after noon.
Layton's death comes less than a month after he announced to the country that he was fighting a new form of cancer and was taking time off for treatment. Layton had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 and underwent treatment for it. He continued working throughout that time and also battled a broken hip earlier this year. Layton used a cane for much of his time on the campaign trail this spring as he led the NDP to a historic victory on May 2.
His party claimed 103 seats, and was propelled to Official Opposition status. Layton and Chow, a fellow NDP MP from Toronto, moved into Stornoway, the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Layton and his party were getting used to their new roles in Parliament but he did not appear to be in good health near the end of June. He said he felt pain and stiffness, he underwent tests and they confirmed he had a new form of cancer. He did not disclose what kind of cancer.
Layton's chief of staff, Anne McGrath, said Monday that Layton's condition took a quick turn for the worse Sunday night.
She spent a few hours with him Saturday and had a sense that he was losing a battle, but says his campaign slogan – don't let them tell you it can't be done – was also a personal slogan.
"It is a huge loss. It is a huge loss for me personally, but it's a huge loss also for our party and our country," she said.
McGrath worked with Layton for nearly a decade.
"There's no question that my heart is broken," she said.
After the news of Layton's death emerged shortly after 8 a.m. ET, friends, colleagues and Canadians reacted quickly and with shock, sadness and tears. The flag on the Peace Tower was lowered to half-mast.
Harper saddened by news
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was saddened to hear the news.
"On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack's contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed," said Harper. "I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight," said Harper.
Longtime NDP leader and MP Ed Broadbent told CBC News he sensed the end was coming, but was still shocked when he got the call Monday morning.
"In each and every election, he moved us forward...he wanted a reason in politics," Broadbent said.
"Canada has lost a great politician. A man who believed in working for the public good. And I've lost a personal friend."
NDP deputy leader Libby Davies, fighting back tears, said Layton's death is "an incredible loss."
"Jack was not only a great leader of the NDP, he's someone that Canadians across the country came to love. We feel a tremendous sense of loss and grief," she said.
Jack Layton, speaking at the NDP's 50th anniversary convention in June, led his party past the Liberals to become the official opposition during the spring election. Darryl Dyck/Canadian PressDavies said Layton brought a sense of humanity to Canadian politics and in his career and his life, especially his battle with cancer, "he gave it his all."
"We have only love and respect for everything that he did and he leaves some really important legacies in Canadian politics," she said.
NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel spoke of one of Layton's favourite quotes from Tommy Douglas, the founder of the CCF, the NDP's forerunner. Layton included the quote in every email he sent: “Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world.”
"Jack was a courageous man. It was his leadership that inspired me, and so many others, to run for office," Turmel said in her statement.
"We – members of Parliament, New Democrats and Canadians – need to pull together now and carry on his fight to make this country a better place."
The NDP appointed Turmel to take over for Layton temporarily. Layton wanted to be back at work in time for Parliament's fall session in mid-September.
Douglas' daughter, Shirley, says Layton was the same whether he was in a crowded room or meeting people one-on-one.
"Everywhere I've gone, people said 'You know, we've got a leader who cared'," she told CBC News.
Douglas says she's worried about Chow.
"That's the one person I keep thinking about all morning," she said. "They were so close and when a marriage that is as close as that one ... it's a terrible thing to see that marriage broken apart by this. I just couldn't say enough to her. She's a tremendous woman on her own."
Tributes to Layton poured in from across party lines.
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NDP Leader Jack Layton has died after a battling with cancer. (Darryl Dyck/CP)
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the news took his breath away and that Layton's death is not just a loss for his party, but for all Canadians.
"It's a loss for the country because he was a political guy who believed strongly in politics and who had a lot of resilience and a lot of guts," Rae told CBC News.
The leader of the Official Opposition announced on July 25 he was stepping away from the job to concentrate on his cancer treatment. He told Canadians he had recently been diagnosed with a new form of cancer, in addition to the prostate cancer he had earlier battled.
Reaction to Layton's death was widespread. American ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, also issued a statement to express his condolences.
"I just received the sad news that Jack Layton has passed away. On behalf of my family as well as the American people I want to express our sorrow to Jack’s wife Olivia Chow, his family, and his friends and supporters across Canada," he wrote on his website.
"I will never forget the image of Jack campaigning as the happy warrior. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for politics and for the Canadian people were undeniable. Something I will never forget. A standard for all of us."
Gov. Gen. David Johnston said Layton constantly strived to bring people together in the common cause of building a better Canada.
"His fundamental decency and his love of our country serve as examples to us all, and he will be greatly missed," Johnston said in a statement.
Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan added his condolences to a growing list of politicians, unions and environmental groups who praised Layton's work.
"Ontario's labour movement is in shock and mourning today with news of the passing of a great Canadian, a giant of a leader, whose compassion, optimism, intellect and wisdom helped to shape Canada," Ryan said in a statement.
"He touched people at such a human and profound level and they touched him. He expressed the collective dreams of all of us through his policies, his political and personal work and his thousands of relationships."