NDP, and Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton died this morning at the age of 61 in the midst of fighting his second bout with cancer. The news broke as I was wrapping up on CFRU's Beyond the Ballot Box show, and admittedly it ended our discussion about the upcoming provincial election on a rather dour note. That's not a knock, but a note about the impact and how the news landed.
In other words it was surprising. The man was a lion, and in the last election he campaigned hard and led his party to a well-earned victory despite being a cancer survivor, and walking the trail with a cane after having hip surgery. How could Layton be fell by something as common as death? But still, Layton dies peacefully in his home this morning.
It's hard to know what to write here, especially since a lot has already been said when last month Layton took a leave of absence to battle cancer once more. But I did like what interem Liberal leader Bob Rae had to say this morning: "It's a loss for the country because he was a political guy who believed strongly in politics and who had a lot of resilience and a lot of guts."
Very true. You may not have agreed with the NDP platform or with Layton politically, but you had to admit that he had passion and that he was a persuasive campaigner. Interviewing Layton when he came her in 2008 to kick off Tom King's campaign was one of the first big political interviews I had done. I had the opportunity to interview him one other time, and heard him speak in person on numerous other occasions and it was hard not to get a feeling of man possessed with great idealism and conviction. And it took a while, but he made that translate from the party faithful and turned it into an Orange Revolution last May. The pity is that he won't be able to see what fruit will be harvest from all those years in the field.
As a political dynamo on the national stage, Jack Layton's presence will sorely be missed in the days and years ahead.