Jack Layton passed away early this morning with his family around him. His passing was described as “peaceful.”
I must admit a bit of shock to this. When I watched the press conference where he announced that he would be stepping down temporarily to fight another bout of cancer, I was amazed at how poorly he looked. That being said, I like many people believed he would, as he said, return in September for the return of the House. Jack was a fighter, and had always been through his political career. It was reasonable to assume that this was just one more obstacle that he would push through. And, despite how ill he appeared at that press conference, it was easy to believe that the opening of the house would include him.
He was always optimistic and a tough debater and there are many in the House of Commons who have felt the sting of his educated and biting wit. Jean Chretian referred to this today as him bearing the scars on his backside of several tough debates with him.
His policies were always slanted to those most in need. His interests included increasing employment and protecting pensions. Public health care and protecting labour were also keystones of his beliefs. He epitomized the “kitchen table” politician, willing to discuss and help anyone who needed it.
There are probably few words that best describe the country’s loss this morning. Shirley Douglas, daughter of Tommy Douglas, probably provided the best description, in that only death could stop him. Sadly, it has and we are a smaller country today because of it.