Country mourns loss of Layton

Canada has lost a man of political promise, but his legacy will live o

Canada has lost a man of political promise, but his legacy will live on.

John Gilbert (Jack) Layton, leader of the federal New Democrats, died Monday morning at the age of 61, of cancer.

The man who made history in May, leading the NDP to become, for the first time ever, official opposition, is being fondly remembered locally.

“To me Jack Layton was an inspiration to all NDP members,” said Nikki Inouye, the NDP candidate for Okanagan-Shuswap in the federal election. “His positive message and strong principles were a huge part of why people from every sector engaged in his message. His tenacity and passion were important qualities that helped him lead the biggest showing in the party’s 50-year history. The whole country took notice of the ‘orange wave’ he created.”

Layton inspired Canadians to believe everyone could benefit from the vast wealth of this country, said Nick Hodge, president of the Okanagan-Shuswap NDP riding association

“It is tragic that he was stopped short of fulfilling that dream,” said Hodge, adding his condolences to the Layton and Chow families, as well as to the many Canadians who met and grew to respect Layton.

Even those who did not always see eye-to-eye with Layton, will miss their NDP counterpart.

“I really respected Jack because he was a person who was committed to the principles he had,” said Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap Conservative MP, adding that he will be missed by everyone in the House.

Calling him sincere and a man of multiple achievements, Mayes says there’s one thing in particular that he will miss about Layton.

“It’s that little smile of his.

“He would get up and just tear a strip out of us as government and he’d sit down and someone would yell something across the House and then you’d see that smile of his.”

The son of a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, Layton was raised in Hudson, Que. He served on Toronto council (where he initiated a campaign to ban smoking in public places – starting with elevators), was president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and led the NDP from 2003 on. He was also a professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University and author of several books. Layton leaves behind his wife and fellow MP Olivia Chow and two children, Mike and Sarah

Just two days before his passing, Layton passed one last message onto Canada in a letter of inspiration:

“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.”

The NDP will continue under Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel as interim leader until a permanent leader is elected.

“The NDP party will move forward strong and united with Jack’s legacy,” said Inouye. “Our party will mourn and recover with Jack’s vision and determination and make sure no one is left behind.

“I like most Canadians would have loved to have a beer with Jack Layton.”

Family, friends, colleagues and supporters will pack Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall Saturday for a 2 p.m. ET state funeral – to pay tribute to the departed NDP leader.