Leader of the New Democratic Party, 2003-2011
Leader of the Official Opposition, 2011
Jack Layton was born into a political family. His father, Robert Layton, was first an activist for the Liberal party and later in life became a Progressive Conservative and finally served as a member of Brian Mulroney's (federal cabinet) cabinet. His grandfather was a cabinet minister in the Duplessis (Quebec provincial) cabinet before the second World War. His great grandfather, Philip Layton, fought during the 1930s for pensions and other rights for the disabled and the blind. His great, great uncle was of one of the founding fathers of Canada.
Just a few months ago Jack Layton led the federal New Democratic Party to its best result in electoral history. The NDP swept past the Liberals to become the official opposition. Layton had been been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 but seemed to be winning the (short term) fight against cancer when the recent federal election was called in 2011. On the campaign tail he often appeared to be in pain although he almost always managed to be cheerful on the hustings.
On July 25th of this year he announced that he was taking a temporary leave due to a newly diagnosed (and different) form of cancer. He died the morning of August 22, 2011 -- at home with his family.
Last Saturday Jack Layton wrote a letter to Canadians be with shared with them if he was unable to continue his battle with cancer.
In it he wrote
It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind.
to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment.
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.
In this Canadian's opinion Layton's letter (which has been made publicly available) deserves to be read in full.
This is the vision I look to in the people who lead my country. All else, the elections and the party platforms, should be nothing more than a heated discussion as to the best way to achieve that glorious vision.
A better world for all of us to live in.