Before Monday 12:30 P.M. I had a very different idea of what this week’s blog post would be about. A Toronto press conference put paid to the posting on a policy argument I was going to make. As many will already know NDP Leader and Leader of Opposition Jack Layton announced that he would be temporarily stepping down over the summer months to take the necessary time to beat a recently diagnosed second form of cancer. As Mr. Layton put it, “So, on the advice of my doctors, I am going to focus on treatment and recovery. I will therefore be taking a temporary leave of absence as Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. I'm going to fight this cancer now, so I can be back to fight for families when Parliament resumes.” The full statement Jack Layton gave can be found here.
The reaction when the NDP entered the room was palpable. A collective gasp from media at Layton’s changed appearance could be heard. As I watched the live stream from CBC I was stunned to see how thin, and sick Mr. Layton appeared. It was shocking. I struggle to put into words the emotions I felt, and I feel Chris Selley from the National Post did a marvelous job of saying what that moment was like for him inside the press room. Selley did a good job in highlighting the unending fight in the Opposition Leader, not just his apparent health problems.
Jack Layton’s health has created a real impact among Canadians. I feel like that is tied to the fact that Mr. Layton just isn’t another politician. Mr. Layton is at present our second longest serving federal leader, only Stephen Harper has served longer, and only by a few months. Since 2003 Jack Layton has been a key fixture in Canadian life, and he has grown to become a part of our public life and consciousness. Consistently, over the past few years, Mr. Layton has routinely polled at the most popular, most well-liked of our federal leaders. The May 2nd election translated Jack’s long held popularity into votes for the first time. When Mr. Layton took over the NDP the NDP were stuck below 10%, this spring they won over 30%.
The Vancouver Sun had some speculation about Mr. Layton’s health yesterday.What some of the doctors suggest may be very serious, but Mr. Layton is entitled to his medical privacy, especially since he has stepped down as leader temporarily. As Jack undergoes treatment and care an interim leader, Nycole Turmel from Hull-Aylmer riding, Quebec, will act as caretaker. Ms. Turmel was a national labour leader and is a new MP elected in May.
Jack Layton has been a principled, vocal leader for all Canadians, and his party. He is our happy warrior. Our smiling, cheerful leader who will not quit. What the NDP leader is going through is something all Canadians can sympathize with. Cancer has touched every Canadian family, and to see one of our great leaders experiencing a very human problem naturally draws in our own histories. Let us not eulogize Jack Layton because his career is far from over. I look forward to his return this fall. I wish you a speedy recovery, Mr. Layton, good luck and don’t stop fighting.
If you would like to send Jack Layton a message of support follow this link.