The Right Honorable Jack Layton, a member of the Canadian Parliament, and a charismatic politician who guided the New Democrat Party (NDP) into the position of being the dominant opposition party in Parliament, has died. He was 61.
In a statement released by the NDP, a spokesman said that Mr. Layton died peacefully Monday morning at his Toronto home, surrounded by family and loved ones.
Only a few weeks ago Layton had held a press conference during which he indicated that he was fighting a second bout with an unspecified new form of cancer.
His gaunt appearance shocked many Canadians, who had witnessed a triumphant Layton lead his party to its historic win in the May federal elections, gaining a total of 103 parliamentary seats up from the previous 37 held, garnering official opposition status in the government.
Layton, who had been recovering from a bout prostate cancer and additionally a broken hip, had carried a cane and hobbled throughout this past spring campaigning hard for his party as it appeared that his health actually seemed to improve as the elections drew near.
A legendary progressive and committed ardent friend of the LGBT community, Layton was a vigorous supporter of HIV/AIDS activism in the early years of the pandemic.
In 2005, Layton was credited by many for the success of Canada’s national same-sex marriage bill when he was the only party leader to whip for supporting votes.
His cheerful, upbeat message, his strong performance in the debates and his popularity in his native French-speaking province of Quebec, went over well with voters.
Prime Minster Stephen Harper said he was deeply saddened by Layton’s death.
“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,” Harper said in a statement.
In a letter to his fellow Canadians, written just two days prior to his death, Layton said, “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.”