Canadian citizens were hit with a wave of shock and sadness after it was announced last week that the leader of Canada’s New Democrats Party, Jack Layton, had passed away due to an undisclosed form of cancer in the early morning of Monday, August 22.
To celebrate the life of the courageous and optimistic politician, the North Coast Constituency office hosted a special gathering on Saturday in Layton’s honour at the Ocean View, where people mourning could watch Layton’s televised state funeral, as well as pay their respects in a Book of Condolences that will be sent to Layton’s family at the end of the month.
“The country has suffered a terrible loss with the death of Jack Layton. Even many of those who never voted for Jack or for the NDP admired his ideas, his tenacity and conviction. He represented the best of Canadian values – equality, fairness, balance, courage and concern for everyone. I believe we all saw the best of ourselves in Jack and in his vision for what was truly possible,” said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.
“Jack had a rare ability to connect with people on the issues that mattered. His life and passion was built on equality, justice and opportunity for all. Jack had the talent to unite Canadians on many fronts. Whether it was with young Canadians and highlighting their goals and aspirations; an economy that shares more fairly; First Nations on their social issues and concerns with rights and title; the education of our children; health care for our valued seniors or the environment and actions we must take to ensure sustainability…Jack Layton knew the right path, he followed his conscience and earned the respect of all Canadians.”
Those sentiments were echoed by former mayor Herb Pond.
“During my six years as Prince Rupert’s mayor I had the privilege of spending time with Jack Layton a number of times. The first was lunch with Jack and Olivia here in Prince Rupert just before they headed out for an afternoon of kayaking. He was so passionately full of life,” he said.
“He was always very interested in Prince Rupert and strongly supported the container port development; one of those rare projects that enjoyed all party support. Clear thinking, contagiously energetic, passionately interested in people, and unwavering in his optimism – Jack Layton leaves a big hole in the Canadian family.”
Layton spent three decades serving the Canadian public, previously having a seat on the Toronto City Council, and being the Leader of Canada’s New Democrats Party from 2003 to 2011. Layton stood strong and fought for a number of issues including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, advanced women’s equality, and for struggling families. This was evident in 2005, when Layton rewrote that year’s budget to divert $4.6 billion dollars from corporate tax giveaways to affordable housing, education and public transit.
Layton brought new found popularity to the NDP during his time leading the party, with the number of MPs growing from thirteen to one-hundred and three in 2011, while quadrupling its national vote. In 2011, Layton became the leader of the largest Official Opposition in over three decades, while also being the party’s first in the opposition role.
Layton was at the pinnacle of his political career when he died at his Toronto home at the age of 61. Layton passed away less than a month after making a public announcement that he would be taking a leave of absence for treatment of an undisclosed form of cancer. Layton had previously battled with the disease in 2005, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The Book of Condolences will be at the North Coast Constituency office until the end of the month, when it will be sent to Layton’s family. People are encouraged to leave messages for the Layton family.