Jack Layton is dead

NDP Leader Jack Layton (center) shown here campaigning with federal New Democratic candidate Mark Shmigelsky (right) had died. He was just 61. Photo courtesy of Ian Cobb/East Kootenay News Online Weekly

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton died early this morning after a long battle with cancer. He was just 61.

A statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and Sarah and Michael Layton said:

“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.”

Thousands of Canadians are mourning his death today, including Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, who released the following statement:

“We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Jack Layton,” Macdonald wrote.  “I want to send my condolences to his wife Olivia and to his family. 

“Jack Layton led the NDP to its greatest success.  As the new Leader of the Official Opposition, Jack brought Canadians hope for real change. 

“All those who met Jack were impressed by his incredible energy.  He was a real fighter who showed grit and determination in the face of adversity. 

“His life was spent in public service both as a Toronto city councilor and as an MP.  His commitment to social justice and the environment were evident throughout his long political career. 

“Jack will be remembered as a leader who held fast to his principles and fought everyday to make life better for ordinary Canadians.”

Before he died Layton wrote an inspiring letter to Canadians. In it he said:

“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.”

Norm Macdonald was not only political figure to comment on Jack’s passing from this world to the next. Former Conservative MP Jim Abbott had this to say about the Official Opposition Leader’as demise:

“I had the privilege, on behalf of the Conervative Party of Canada, of making a statement in the House regarding Jack’s fight with prostate cancer.

“All members were wearing two tone blue ties or scarves. At the conclusion of my statement I said “I’m sure the NDP leader’s father would be very pleased to he him in the House wearing a blue tie,” an obvious reference to his conservative heritage.

“When we shook hands we had a hearty laugh. The next day Jack came to my seat and told me his mother had particularly enjoyed the quip and that the PM had also used the good humored dig in question period.

“Jack was the very first MP to contact my office when I publicly announced my retirement and had some very nice comments for me in a video about me leaving politics.

“Jack will be sadly missed.”

Fellow federal New Democrat Mark Shmigelsky whose campaign in this riding was publicly supported by Layton said:

“I was shocked and saddened at the news of Jack’s death. He was and always will be remembered as a great Canadian who fought to make this country better and more fair for its citizens.

“For me personally, I will never forget his commitment and determination to make things better. He came into this riding, a riding that had been a Conservative riding for 20 years, one that we had little chance of winning and he was here not once but twice supporting our team and the people here.

“He was just a fighter right to the very end and I will never forget that. All our love and support to Oliva and her family.”

The riding’s new Member of Parliament, David Wilkes, had this to say:

“It’s very sad news. Jack was very well respected on the Hill.

“He was a tremendous leader and he will be sadly missed because he brought so much to Canadian politics. It’s a sad day for Canadian politics. Certainly Jack was on the other side of my political beliefs, but he was a great leader and brought a ton of passion to Canadian politics. He will be sadly missed, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family today.

“When Parliament resumes (Sept 19), I think it’s going to be quite sombre. I think all parties in the House will treat each other with utmost respect, recognizing Jack’s contributions  to Canadian politics.”

If you are one of the many, many people grieving for Jack Layton today you can express your condolences online via the national New Democratic Party website.

You can read more about Jack Layton’s rise, his accomplishments and his legacy on most major news media websites, including The Globe & Mail.

Whether you liked and supported Jack Layton or opposed him politically you have to admit that he had an enormous impact on his party and country. His ability to connect with ordinary people was second to none and his adherence to principle was legendary.

Requiescat in pace, Jack.