Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada and Leader of Canada’s Official Opposition, has died. Layton died at his home early Monday morning surrounded by his family, according to a statement released by his wife Olivia Chow. Layton, the charismatic and well-loved leader who led the NDP to unprecedented gains and their first ever role as the Official Opposition in the May 2011 election, was 61.
Layton announced less than a month ago that he was stepping down temporarily from his role as Opposition Leader to battle cancer. It was already well known that Layton was battling prostate cancer, however, that cancer appeared to be under control. This new, undisclosed form of cancer was already ravaging Layton by the time he stepped aside. When Layton appeared in front of the cameras in late July to announce what he hoped was his temporary withdrawal from politics, his appearance was frail and his voice quavered, striking fear into those who were rooting for him. As it turns out, we had reason to fear.
Layton’s death at the peak of his political career is a loss for all of Canada. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, Jack Layton had a unique ability to reach people and transcend the current climate of hyperpartisanship and attacks. Layton was friendly, charismatic, did not mince words and knew how to reach individual, ordinary Canadians. He was widely credited with being the sole reason the NDP made such amazing gains in the last election. His death leaves Canada in mourning — and the future of the party he loved uncertain.
Layton is survived by his wife, MP Olivia Chow, and his children Sarah and Michael Layton.
Photo Credit: MattJiggins on Flickr.