Jack Layton loses his battle with cancer

08.22.11

The longtime leader of the NDP and official opposition leader of Canada, Jack Layton, lost his battle with cancer this morning at age 61:

“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones,” the statement read.

Layton led a party that I often didn’t agree with. I wasn’t a big fan of him as a politician, either. I mocked his used-car-salesman demeanour, his debate tactics, his party’s habit of apologizing for extremism or drawing false moral equivalencies, and even his moustache.

All of that aside, though, his death is a tragedy, just as any death from cancer is a tragedy. It also comes at a time when the country is, more than ever, in the iron grip of a Conservative party that is doing frightening things to our political landscape. The NDP’s historic gains in the May election, which vaulted them into official opposition status, meant that Layton was expected to play a major role in doing whatever he could to keep the Tories in check. Now, of course, this duty will pass onto someone else.

Canadians of all political stripes – left, right or the kitchen sink – will mourn Layton’s passing, and rightly so. I didn’t always agree him, but  even where we disagreed, I recognize that he was acting for what he believed was his vision for Canada. My condolences to Olivia Chow and to the rest of Layton’s family and friends.

You can read the text of Layton’s last letter to Canadians here.

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