Not any more

Jack Layton 1950-2011

In Canada, Cancer, From Coast to Coast to Coast, Government, Loss of Life, Medical, Toronto on August 22, 2011 at 09:43

A statement issued this morning by the family of NDP leader Jack 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. Details of Mr. Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

A statement from the Prime Minister.

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death of Jack Layton.

“When I last spoke with Jack following his announcement in July, I wished him well and he told me he’d be seeing me in the House of Commons in the Fall.

“This, sadly, will no longer come to pass.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack’s contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed.

“I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.

“To his wife Olivia, his family, and to his colleagues and friends, Laureen and I offer our heartfelt condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this most difficult time.” 

A statement from interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel.

New Democrats today are mourning the loss of a great Canadian.

Jack was a courageous man. It was his leadership that inspired me, and so many others, to run for office. 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.

On behalf of New Democrats from coast to coast to coast, our thoughts and prayers are with our colleague Olivia Chow, Jack’s children Sarah and Mike and the rest of Jack’s family.

And we remember the Tommy Douglas quote Jack included in every email he sent: “Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world.”

An official statement from Liberal leader Bob Rae.

“Like all Canadians, Arlene and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jack Layton.  He was a friend of ours for many years, and despite our political differences his decency, good humour and extraordinary resilience earned our deep admiration.  We remained friends throughout our political lives. 

On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, I express our deep condolences to Olivia and Jack’s family, as well as to his colleagues and friends in the New Democratic Party.  He leaves a powerful legacy of a commitment to social justice in his work in Toronto as a city councillor and as a national leader.

Peace and comfort to all.  When David Lewis passed away Stanley Knowles ended his eulogy with the words “shalom chaver, shalom”.  Peace, brother, peace.”

NDP deputy leader Libby Davies talks to reporters in St. John’s.

“He was a great Canadian. He gave his life to this country. His commitment to social justice and equality and a better Canada in the world and at home and I think that’s how people saw him,” Davies told reporters. “They saw him as someone who deeply, deeply cared for people. And they saw that in the campaign and all his work. They saw the courage that he had. He faced cancer and he kept on working, doing his job, because he felt so strongly about what he believed in, so I think people think of him as a great Canadian and we think of him as a great leader, in a political sense but (also) in a personal sense.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May offers her sympathies: “Such terribly sad news. Deepest sympathy to @jacklayton’s family and to all in the #NDP for whom he worked so long and hard.”A statement from the Green party.

The Green Party of Canada offers deep sympathy and sadness at the news of the death of one of Canada’s leading political figures.  The party, its members, candidates, staff and leader send sincere condolences to the entire NDP family, Jack’s family and most especially to Jack’s wife Olivia Chow. “I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of Jack Layton.  Collectively, Canadian hearts are breaking,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May. “Jack will always be remembered for his unfailing love of Canada and his dedication to this country and its citizens.”

@bobraeMPBob Rae

Deeply saddened by news about Jack Layton, Arlene and I send deepest condolences to Olivia and family. He is a loss to a grieving Canada
@Carolyn_BennettCarolyn Bennett
Canada has suffered a terrible loss… We will miss him terribly. Our deepest sympathies to Olivia and Michael and his families #cdnpoli
@GGDavidJohnstonDavid Johnston
I learned with great sadness we just lost Jack Layton. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

An official statement from Governor General David Johnston.

My wife, Sharon, and I join all Canadians in deeply mourning the loss of Jack Layton today.

As leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Mr. Layton was held in great esteem by Canadians for his passionate dedication to the public good. Throughout his career as a community leader and politician, he constantly strived to bring people together in the common cause of building a better Canada, and he did so with so with great energy and commitment. His fundamental decency and his love of our country serve as examples to us all, and he will be greatly missed.

We wish to extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Layton’s wife, Ms. Olivia Chow, and their family, friends and colleagues in this most difficult time. Our thoughts are with you.

@JohnMcCallumMPJohn McCallum

Deeply saddened by today’s news. Our thoughts are with Jack Layton’s family today. He will be remembered for his dedication to Canadians.

statement from American ambassador David Jacobson.

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.  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.

Former Toronto mayor David Miller spoke of his long-time colleague: “I am extremely saddened to receive the news of Jack Layton’s passing and want to extend my condolences to Olivia and to Jack’s entire family.

I had the privilege of knowing Jack for 25 years, proudly serving with him at the City of Toronto before he was elected as a Member of Parliament.

Whether as a city councillor or as an MP, Jack always fought hard, and successfully, to make a better world for all Torontonians and Canadians.

As a councillor, his leadership in fighting against homelessness and for our environment both resulted in permanent change for the better.

He has left a national legacy not just as the most successful leader of the New Democratic Party, but as the former President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) where he built a strong national consensus between urban and rural Canada, and between municipal politicians of all political parties resulting in national investment in Canada’s cities and towns.

His progressive leadership – and his personal courage and relentless optimism – are going to be very much missed.”

Dave Sidaway/Montreal Gazette

From Peter Tabuns, New Democrat MPP for Toronto-Danforth, the riding Layton represented as a federal MP:
“He showed us how to do it, how to connect with people.”
Tabuns says he visited Layton 10 days ago.
“He was in really good humour….his voice was a lot better than in that last press conference….he was the most optimistic man I ever met in my life.”
“If you ever campaigned with him, the man was a ball of fire.”

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent spoke at his home in Ottawa:

“This is a tragic loss taking down a politically extraordinary man at the height of his powers and his accomplishments for Canada.
I am deeply saddened but like many other Canadians I expected news any time now. I am quite overcome by it as a consequence.”

 A statement from House Speaker Andrew Scheer.

On behalf of the Members of the House of Commons, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Olivia Chow and the friends and family of the Honourable Jack Layton at this difficult time. Jack was a man of remarkable courage and conviction, who leaves behind a tremendous legacy both as a devoted family man and a passionate politician who fought fearlessly for what he believed in. His contribution to Canada’s political life and landscape will be greatly missed.

Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney called Layton the “heart and soul” of the New Democratic Party.

“It was a huge achievement,” he told the Star’s Richard Brennan.

Mulroney said he had a long telephone chat with Layton after the NDP captured 59 seats in Quebec.

He said Layton wanted some tips on how to handle such a large and, for the most part, inexperienced Quebec caucus, knowing that Mulroney faced a similar situation in 1984 when the Tories won 59 seats.

“We had a very good conversation,” he said.

Mulroney said Layton always reminded him of Robert Layton, Jack’s father, who served in Mulroney’s cabinet and was national caucus chair.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief on Passing of Jack Layton

OTTAWA, Aug. 22, 2011 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today responded to the news of the passing of the Leader of the Official Opposition, Jack Layton:

“I and my family are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Layton.  Jack was a friend to me and to so many leaders across Canada.  Jack understood the challenges of poverty and was determined to give voice to all struggles including our struggle for fairness, equity and justice.”

“Jack had such a unique ability to connect with and listen to people.  Jack was accessible to everyone.  We all grew to quickly appreciate his deep sincerity in supporting our issues in the best way possible. Jack will be greatly missed by First Nation leaders across this country and by so many Canadians. He was a remarkable and inspirational  leader for all peoples. ”

“On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and the national executive, I offer my heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Olivia Chow and the entire Layton family at this difficult time.  As I reflect today, I know that Jack’s fearless determination to advance a better day for everyone  is a powerful and instructive legacy for all leaders and for Canadians.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

TORONTO, Aug. 22, 2011 /CNW/ – Ryerson President Sheldon Levy says the university community is saddened to learn of the death of Jack Layton, who taught at Ryerson before launching his political career.

“Jack was a true friend to Ryerson. Our deepest condolences go out to Olivia and Jack’s family,” said President Levy. “His political legacy and commitment to social justice will inspire students for years to come. As a teacher, his passion for knowledge and his enthusiasm for politics had an impact on a generation of Ryerson students.”

The Opposition Leader passed away early this morning. He is survived by his wife, MP Olivia Chow, and children Mike and Sarah.

Layton became a Ryerson professor in 1974 and taught politics before being elected to Toronto city council in 1982. He was elected federal NDP leader in 2003 and led the party to unprecedented success in the May 2, 2011 election, earning the party official Opposition status for the first time.

“To lose a party leader of such integrity is a profound loss for Canadian politics,” said Colin Mooers, interim chair of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson. “Equally sad, having led the federal NDP to its first-ever official Opposition status, is that Jack Layton will not be able to take his seat as leader. Jack’s loss will be felt acutely by all his former colleagues.”

In a visit to campus several years ago, Layton had expressed how much he enjoyed his time at Ryerson.

“Teaching at Ryerson is among the happiest times of my life,” said Layton in October 2007 at a campus event to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Ryerson Public Administration program. “I’m a big believer in Ryerson. I love the connection teachers have with students, who are connected to the community. This promotes learning because they learn from the community.”

TORONTO, Aug. 22, 2011 /CNW/ – The news of federal NDP leader Jack Layton’s passing has deeply saddened CAW leaders, members and staff right across the country, as we mourn the loss of an inspiring political leader and a friend to working people and all those fighting for justice.

Jack Layton had a broad and truly inclusive vision for the country, which he pursued wholeheartedly with enthusiasm and optimism that was infectious. There can be no greater example than the party’s success across Canada in the last election, particularly in the province of Quebec.

Jack’s steadfast belief in equality and fairness made him an outspoken advocate for the poor, Canadian families, students, seniors and children. What people saw in Jack was a person who cared sincerely about their lives and would articulately speak up in their defence, on Parliament Hill or wherever the situation found him.

He captured our imaginations and encapsulated our hope that indeed as a country, we could do better. He inspired us to believe more was possible.

To NDP Members of Parliament:

Our hearts go out to you as you grapple with the death of a mentor and dear friend. The country is mourning along with you. On behalf of the CAW, we send to you our collective condolences for the untimely loss of Jack Layton.

Jack was an inspiring and unifying political leader, unparalleled in Ottawa in recent memory. Surely he must have ignited in each of you a passion for your community and country.

To be certain, Jack had great momentum through out the last federal election, but his appeal and strength were also rooted in the ideas he espoused. The hope that Jack Layton drew on in the last election is still with you and your party. The NDP is a crucial voice of conscience for Canada.  At Jack’s passing, your voice of conscience is needed more than ever. Your efforts can and will make a difference in the direction of our country.

The union looks forward to working with whoever replaces Jack as the leader of the Official Opposition.

To All Canadians:

The country has suffered a terrible loss with the death of Jack Layton. Even many of those who never voted for Jack or a member of his party admired his ideas, his tenacity and conviction. He represented the best of Canadian values – fairness, equality, balance, courage and concern for one’s neighbour.  He was but one human, but his persona was much larger.  We saw the best of ourselves in Jack and in his vision what was possible for the country.

Through out Canadian history, the NDP and progressives have made important advances for all citizens, regardless of their political leanings. As we mourn the loss of Jack Layton, we must also reflect on his vision for Canada and how we can endeavour to make some of his cherished ideas a reality.

Among the lessons Jack Layton gave us is the necessity of courage to dream bigger than what others believe to be possible and to pursue these dreams with great determination and passion.

Jack’s memory will live on through the tireless work of all Canadians who choose to build a stronger, more equal and just society.

Sincerely, Ken Lewenza
National President

A statement from former governor general Michaelle Jean.

“It is with profound sadness that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter Marie-Eden and I, learnt of the death of Jack Layton,” said the former governor general of Canada. “Our country is losing a man of courage and great integrity.

“He embodied, and knew how to defend with vigor and conviction, the values ​​closest to the hearts of Canadians. His determination, his love of the country, his optimism, his great compassion, his ability to listen, his personal warmth, and his open-mindedness, are all qualities that will be missed. Our thoughts are with his wife, Olivia Chow, children and grand-daughter as well as with all his extended family, friends and fellow travelers now afflicted by grief. From him, we will keep the best memories.”

Jack Layton took over the New Democratic Party in 2003.

A statement from Jeff Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

On behalf of the doctors of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association extends its sincere condolences to Olivia Chow and the family, friends and colleagues of Jack Layton. Mr. Layton was a tireless defender of medicare and a principled voice for the disadvantaged in our society. He was a decent man, deeply committed to social justice, who stayed true to his values. On a personal note, he and I shared a similar perspective on the need to respect the rights of the homeless and other vulnerable people in our society. I thought he was a wonderful man and we have suffered a great loss.


statement from former prime minister Paul Martin.

Jack Layton’s contribution to Canada was cut short most unfairly. His dedication to our country, to public life and to his party was vividly apparent in everything he did and all that he achieved.

John Ward, The Canadian Press OTTAWA – Like some political Moses, Jack Layton led his people out of the wilderness, only to die within sight of his own Promised Land.

In the preface to his 2006 book, “Speaking Out Louder,” Layton wrote a passage that turned out to be eerily prescient:

“Oftentimes, life’s highs and lows are inextricably linked. That has certainly happened to me and, occasionally, the ups and downs were virtually simultaneous.”

In eight years as leader of the NDP he took his party to heady heights, but fell himself to a tragic disease at the age of 61.

The end came with a terse announcement.

“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,” said the statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and children, Sarah and Michael.

“He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones.”

Funeral details have not yet been announced.

Layton rebuilt his party, muted its internal squabbles, united its fractious factions and weaned it from old-style dogma to present a face more palatable to middle-class voters.

He starred in the most successful election in the history of his party and won the title of Opposition Leader, which had eluded his more storied predecessors.

Layton hobbled across the hustings last spring, leaning on a cane against the pain of a surgically repaired broken hip. He shrugged off the effects of treatment for prostate cancer. His dogged campaigning as Le Bon Jack won him a majority of the seats in Quebec, a cherished but illusory goal for New Democrats for decades.

He slew the Bloc Quebecois and saw the long-dominant Liberal party reduced to a battered hulk.

Layton was ready for a new Canadian political alignment that would pit left against right across the moribund Liberal middle.

But the victory cup was dashed from his lips by the onslaught of another, more brutal cancer that wasted him to skin and bones — and killed him just 16 weeks after election day.

Layton went, in one short summer, from triumph to tragedy and left behind less a political legacy than a political question: What if?

He was a man who carried politics in his genes. A great-grandfather was a Father of Confederation. His grandfather, a Quebec provincial cabinet minister in a Union Nationale government. His father, a Tory cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney.

He was a believer. He made that clear in the first sentences of “Speaking Out Louder:”

“Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference.”

Layton was born in Montreal on July 18, 1950. He grew up in Hudson, Que., an Anglo community complete with a celebrated yacht club. It was a small town, but hardly typical of small-town Quebec.

He was a child of the placid Fifties in a well-off family in a well-to-do town. He was a teen and university student of the Sixties, with all that went with a decade that has claimed the word “turbulent” as its singular descriptive.

Layton took his BA at Montreal’s McGill University in the late 1960s, when radicalism blew through campuses like a stiff gale. The rebellious vigour of the times led him to political activism. He doffed the conservativism of his family and embraced socialism.

“Events in the Sixties and Seventies were formative for me,” he wrote in “Speaking Out Louder.”

“My path grew out of the tumultuous days of the October Crisis.”

He became an activist, canvasser and organizer for a community movement in Montreal as a student.

By the time he earned his master’s degree at Toronto’s York University in 1972, his political genes had clearly activated. He had studied under Jim Laxer, a key figure in the Waffle movement that rocked the NDP at the time.

Layton taught at Ryerson University in Toronto. But by the time he received his PhD in 1984, he had already largely abandoned academic theory for community activism and then the practicalities of municipal politics.

“I was hooked on local politics and neighbourhood engagement,” he wrote.

First elected in 1982, he served on Toronto and Metropolitan Toronto councils for 20 years, honing his instincts and skills at the level of retail politics. He was a politician in the mould of a people’s tribune, with rolled-up sleeves, 14-hour days and seven-day weeks. Every hand was there to be shaken, every story was there to be heard, every windmill was there to be charged.

His politics were those of the poor, the homeless, the alienated, the disenfranchised. He served as vice-chair of Toronto Hydro, chair of the Toronto Board of Health and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He twice ran federally and lost.

Layton’s first marriage to high-school sweetheart Sally Halford, which had produced two children, ended in 1983.

He would eventually team up with Olivia Chow, another municipal power-broker. Together they would become the go-to couple of the left in Toronto politics. They rode a tandem bicycle along the waterfront, entertained, led rallies, marched in parades, ran for office and won.

Chow would follow Layton into the House of Commons in 2006. And she would be beside him in the dark summer of 2011.

In his rise, Layton gained a reputation as a brash, aggressive, even abrasive figure.

On a trip to Calgary for a meeting of the federation of municipalities, he raised local hackles with dismissive comments about the city, its appetite for new buildings at the cost of older properties and even its ritzy new city hall. There was an outcry in the local media and Art Eggleton, then mayor of Toronto, dispatched his own apology for Layton’s comments.

He also gained a reputation as a master of the political stunt and the over-the-top comment. Some joked that the most dangerous place to be around city hall was between Layton and a microphone, where one might get trampled.

Rightly or wrongly, the image of a loud lout shouting into the mike from the left side of any issue clung to him after he won the NDP leadership in 2003.

It was a leadership contest that pitted Layton and the trendy new left against Bill Blaikie and the traditional, Prairie populist wing. Blaikie was a United Church minister in the best traditions of NDP and CCF champions of old. Layton was an academic and a firebrand. Blaikie was a Manitoban, Layton was from Toronto, font of all evil for many Canadians, especially westerners.

Layton won on the first ballot and went into renovation mode. He began to rebuild and re-brand his party. He was a people person whose BlackBerry kept him linked to hundreds of organizers, fund-raisers, recruiters and policy wonks. He worked through meals and vacations, pushing himself and his goals.

He toned down the wild rhetoric, although he raised an uproar in the 2004 election campaign by accusing then-prime minister Paul Martin of responsibility for the deaths of homeless people because he failed to produce affordable housing.

Despite that, Layton won his Toronto-Danforth seat in Parliament in 2004, an election that left Martin’s Liberals with a minority government. The NDP raised its seat total to 19 from 13.

It was a start. Layton criss-crossed the country to raise the party profile and in doing so, became the public face of the NDP. The trademark grin, the brush moustache, the earnest optimism, the trademark head tilt were the tools of his trade. The hellfire rhetoric cooled. This was reasonable Jack, optimistic Jack, the Jack of the kitchen table, not the street corner.

The approach seemed to strike a chord with regular folk.

In 2006, Layton’s campaign produced 29 seats, but boosted its vote to 2.59 million. Momentum was building.

In 2008, Layton campaigned not as a third-party leader, but as a prime minister-in-waiting. The vote total slipped slightly, but his campaign won 37 seats, just six short of its then all-time high under Ed Broadbent.

By 2011, Layton was ready for a breakthrough. Despite the prostate cancer diagnosed in early 2010, despite the mysterious hip fracture, he was everywhere. In Quebec, his working-class French and his call to action on behalf of the ordinary family struck a note with voters grown weary of the Bloc and leery of the Liberals.

On May 2, about 4.5 million people cast ballots for the NDP, giving the party 103 seats — 59 from Quebec — and making Layton leader of the Official Opposition.

Just over two months later, looking pale and gaunt, he called a news conference to say he was suffering from another, unspecified cancer and he would temporarily step down as party leader. Nycole Turmel, rookie MP and veteran labour leader, took over in the interim.

Deuteronomy 34 says God took Moses up to a high place and showed him the Promised Land in the distance.

“I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.”


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