Jack Layton 1950-2011

The NDP leader passed away at his home early this morning

A statement issued this morning by the family of NDP leader Jack Layton.

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. Details of Mr. Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

9:11am. Bob Rae, Carolyn BennettHedy Fry, Wayne Easter, Cathy McLeodKeith Martin and Governor General David Johnston are among those paying their respects.

9:23am. John Geddes explored Jack Layton’s life and times for this Maclean’s cover story last June. We wrote about his new fight with cancer for this cover story earlier this month.

9:28am. Condolences from Rodger Cuzner, Lewis Cardinal, Colin CarrieMike Sullivan and John McCallum.

9:36am. NDP deputy leader Libby Davies talks to reporters in St. John’s.

“He was a great Canadian. He gave his life to this country. His commitment to social justice and equality and a better Canada in the world and at home and I think that’s how people saw him,” Davies told reporters. “They saw him as someone who deeply, deeply cared for people. And they saw that in the campaign and all his work. They saw the courage that he had. He faced cancer and he kept on working, doing his job, because he felt so strongly about what he believed in, so I think people think of him as a great Canadian and we think of him as a great leader, in a political sense but (also) in a personal sense.”

9:43am. More on the life of Jack Layton from the CBCToronto Star and Canadian Press.

He was a believer. He made that clear in the first sentences of “Speaking Out Louder:” “Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference.”

9:54am. Mr. Layton’s Facebook page has become a makeshift memorial.

9:59am. Greg Fingas marks the NDP leader’s passing.

After spending a decade laying the foundation, Jack Layton has tragically died before getting to complete the house that so many said couldn’t be built. For now, there’s little to do but to offer condolences and grieve the loss of a great Canadian and friend. But hopefully Layton’s inspiration will only encourage us to finish what he started.

10:01am. A statement from the Prime Minister.

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death of Jack Layton. When I last spoke with Jack following his announcement in July, I wished him well and he told me he’d be seeing me in the House of Commons in the Fall. This, sadly, will no longer come to pass.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack’s contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed. I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.

“To his wife Olivia, his family, and to his colleagues and friends, Laureen and I offer our heartfelt condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this most difficult time.” 

10:04am. An official statement from Liberal leader Bob Rae.

“Like all Canadians, Arlene and I are deeply saddened by the death of Jack Layton.  He was a friend of ours for many years, and despite our political differences his decency, good humour and extraordinary resilience earned our deep admiration.  We remained friends throughout our political lives. 

On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, I express our deep condolences to Olivia and Jack’s family, as well as to his colleagues and friends in the New Democratic Party.  He leaves a powerful legacy of a commitment to social justice in his work in Toronto as a city councillor and as a national leader.

Peace and comfort to all.  When David Lewis passed away Stanley Knowles ended his eulogy with the words “shalom chaver, shalom”.  Peace, brother, peace.”

10:10am. A statement from American ambassador David Jacobson.

I will never forget the image of Jack campaigning as the happy warrior.  His energy, enthusiasm and passion for politics and for the Canadian people were undeniable.  Something I will never forget. A standard for all of us.

10:12am. Condolences from Joe ComartinJames Moore and Dawn Black. The CBC has put together a video of Mr. Layton’s life in front of the camera.

10:22am. A statement from interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel.

New Democrats today are mourning the loss of a great Canadian. Jack was a courageous man. It was his leadership that inspired me, and so many others, to run for office. We – Members of Parliament, New Democrats and Canadians – need to pull together now and carry on his fight to make this country a better place.

On behalf of New Democrats from coast to coast to coast, our thoughts and prayers are with our colleague Olivia Chow, Jack’s children Sarah and Mike and the rest of Jack’s family. And we remember the Tommy Douglas quote Jack included in every email he sent: “Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world.

10:29am. A statement from the Green party.

The Green Party of Canada offers deep sympathy and sadness at the news of the death of one of Canada’s leading political figures.  The party, its members, candidates, staff and leader send sincere condolences to the entire NDP family, Jack’s family and most especially to Jack’s wife Olivia Chow. “I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of Jack Layton.  Collectively, Canadian hearts are breaking,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May. “Jack will always be remembered for his unfailing love of Canada and his dedication to this country and its citizens.”

10:32am. A note posted to Facebook by NDP MP Niki Ashton.

Thinking of Jack Layton. Thinking of his commitment to building a better Canada for all of us from coast to coast to coast. A leader. A visionary. A friend. Thank you. Merci.

10:56am. Paul Wells considers the day’s news and the last eight years.

Today everyone will be writing and talking about his last campaign, the one he fought with a cane and a smile, as sustained a feat of physical courage and political agility as any I’ve seen in all my years covering this business. But I think it’s important to recognize that his party’s final breakthrough was no fluke. It was the product of a lifetime’s preparation and a decade’s effort, concentration and adaptation. It was the work of a man who won over his party, then his wary colleagues, then his party’s traditional voters, then hundreds of thousands of new supporters. Jack Layton promised to build, and he was as good as his word. 

11:09am. An official statement from Governor General David Johnston.

My wife, Sharon, and I join all Canadians in deeply mourning the loss of Jack Layton today. As leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Mr. Layton was held in great esteem by Canadians for his passionate dedication to the public good. Throughout his career as a community leader and politician, he constantly strived to bring people together in the common cause of building a better Canada, and he did so with so with great energy and commitment. His fundamental decency and his love of our country serve as examples to us all, and he will be greatly missed.

We wish to extend our sincerest condolences to Mr. Layton’s wife, Ms. Olivia Chow, and their family, friends and colleagues in this most difficult time. Our thoughts are with you.

11:45am. James Moore says flags on Parliament Hill and all federal buildings in Toronto will fly at half-mast until Mr. Layton’s funeral. Further condolences from Scott Simms and Deepak Obhrai.

12:20pm. A statement from former governor general Michaelle Jean.

“It is with profound sadness that my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter Marie-Eden and I, learnt of the death of Jack Layton,” said the former governor general of Canada. “Our country is losing a man of courage and great integrity.

“He embodied, and knew how to defend with vigor and conviction, the values ​​closest to the hearts of Canadians. His determination, his love of the country, his optimism, his great compassion, his ability to listen, his personal warmth, and his open-mindedness, are all qualities that will be missed. Our thoughts are with his wife, Olivia Chow, children and grand-daughter as well as with all his extended family, friends and fellow travelers now afflicted by grief. From him, we will keep the best memories.”

12:22pm. Martin Patriquin considers Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.

With his smile and his cane and his bons mots flowing out of his mouth in joual-inflected French, Layton threw Duceppe into unfamiliar territory. All of a sudden, and for the first time in his career, Duceppe had an adversary who couldn’t be made into a boogeyman—a man who was indestructably nice. Duceppe played catch up for the rest of the campaign, and on election day Jack as pleasant as ever slipped the knife into the Bloc, doing in one of the most dominant political forces in the province’s history. It was the only possible way to do in the party: with a smile.

12:38pm. Jack Layton’s letter to Canadians can now be read here.

12:45pm. Douglas Bell remembers a happier moment.

He said he was running to be “your Prime Minister,” and a recent poll suggesting the NDP was running dead-even with Stéphane Dion in Quebec fueled a huge jet engine roar. And then for some reason everybody in the room started pogoing and roaring and pogoing some more and Jack Layton stood before them, his smile like some kind of incandescent totem of hope and sheer joy. Jack’s head and that massive smile bobbed up and down, simultaneously following and leading the crowd in their rapture. In that moment everybody, and I mean everybody, in that room was smiling back.

12:48pm. NDP MP Paul Dewar reacts to the news.

“It was a damn good life and it was a bit too short,” the Ottawa Centre MP said.

12:53pm. A statement from former prime minister Paul Martin.

Jack Layton’s contribution to Canada was cut short most unfairly. His dedication to our country, to public life and to his party was vividly apparent in everything he did and all that he achieved.

1:19pm. A statement from Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

“Jack Layton was a remarkable Canadian,” said Simon. “With his passing, Inuit have lost a friend and advocate.”

1:28pm. Sonya Bell sketches the scene on Parliament Hill.

As more Canadians gathered around the Centennial Flame on Monday, one young boy told his mother that this is where Layton should be buried, beneath the Peace Tower. Another man laid a single stone, then stepped back with his head bowed.

1:39pm. A statement from Jeff Turnbull, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

On behalf of the doctors of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association extends its sincere condolences to Olivia Chow and the family, friends and colleagues of Jack Layton. Mr. Layton was a tireless defender of medicare and a principled voice for the disadvantaged in our society. He was a decent man, deeply committed to social justice, who stayed true to his values. On a personal note, he and I shared a similar perspective on the need to respect the rights of the homeless and other vulnerable people in our society. I thought he was a wonderful man and we have suffered a great loss.

1:57pm. Andrew Steele considers Jack Layton’s impact.

His abbreviated life must contain a legion of these encounters: small moments when Mr. Layton left someone feeling better about themselves than when they started; small moments when someone was gently nudged along the road to public service. There is likely an entire generation of political activists in the NDP who work as hard as they do because of Jack, because he nudged them along that road.

2:15pm. Mike Barber considers Jack Layton’s legacy.

Among the public (well, the younger reaches of it, at least), Layton was the Real Deal, the lone guy willing to say what he believed, find a way to achieve it, then do just that, even when doing so didn’t attract cameras or headlines. Over those eight years, he won over countless converts and warmed the hearts of his rivals. No other politician of this era comes close to having left a legacy as inspiring as Layton, a legacy with countless more bridges built than burned. One can now only dream of what he might have yielded had cancer not robbed the country of another eight years of Jack Layton.

2:42pm. Edward Keenan remembers what Jack Layton meant.

People will say—I know they are already are saying—that he was a man who was in politics “for the right reasons.” Unlike many, I think that is true of most polticians, however effective they may or may not be, and no matter how distracted they may become. But the interesting thing about Layton is that the wrong reasons appear not to have ever occurred to him. He coupled that with boundless energy and an inability to see anything as impossible or to interpret anything as a setback.

2:45pm. A statement from House Speaker Andrew Scheer.

On behalf of the Members of the House of Commons, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Olivia Chow and the friends and family of the Honourable Jack Layton at this difficult time. Jack was a man of remarkable courage and conviction, who leaves behind a tremendous legacy both as a devoted family man and a passionate politician who fought fearlessly for what he believed in. His contribution to Canada’s political life and landscape will be greatly missed.

2:58pm. Steve Paikin remembers Jack Layton. The Agenda will be remembering Mr. Layton’s life tonight at 8pm.

Once, for a radio documentary I was doing, I hung out in his office for a day, just to watch him do his job.  He was different from the obstreperous, a little-too-aggressive, in-your-face politician he was at council meetings.  He’d work the phones, trying to bring different factions together to find a solution to a particular problem in his ward. It was a side of Jack Layton few people saw. As he became a more seasoned politician, Layton lost some of the more aggressive edges that made many voters suspicious of him. He transformed himself into the likeable, happy warrior we saw during the federal election campaign earlier this year.

3:21pm. Jamey Heath, a former senior aide to Jack Layton, remembers their years together.

In the nine years since that soupy day when he set out to change Canadian politics, much has changed. I was lucky to be there for some of it, but today isn’t a day to remember leadership wins, new budgets, ever-larger caucuses or a viable chance to finally get politics that work better for more people. It is a chance to remember the laugh after giving a speech with his neck half-cocked because one of the TelePrompter screens was put on backwards. To recall the guy who carried my suitcase into the hotel for me after I’d fallen asleep on the campaign bus. And to relive the constant flurry of emails at all hours from an energizer bunny of a politician who always believed things could get better.

3:33pm. Michael Ignatieff remembers a moment in time.

I see this scene and I see Jack on crutches, his face moist with sweat and his complexion pale, powering his way through this crowd, cantilevering his body on crutches, taking the weight on his shoulders, moving towards his caucus area in the lobby. It is an image of a man struggling, in the middle of a crowd, to prevail, to make it through. What I remember best is his smile: cheerful, jaunty and buoyant. The smile was an inspiration, then and now.

4:05pm. Anne McGrath, Mr. Layton’s chief of staff, talks about her last conversation with him.

But it was her last conversation with her good friend and boss that Ms. McGrath recalled Monday. “We talked about the future,” she told The Globe. She said “Jack had tasked us” with presenting different scenarios as to how the party should proceed if he didn’t come back in the fall – as he had vowed he would – how that fall session would go and, in “the event that he was going to pass, what would we do.”

This is much like his first conversation with her upon learning of his new cancer.

4:34pm. Philippe Gohier recalls a few moments in the company of Jack Layton.

Eventually, my fellow waiters started giving me the evil eye, and I reluctantly pulled away from Jack’s table with an invitation to come back later if I had a few minutes to talk. For the rest of the night, I was too busy to do anything else but bring Jack and his entourage their food. But when Jack came to the till to settle his table’s bill, he gave me his email address and told me to keep in touch. He then shook my hand and gave me a great tip.

4:39pm. The NDP has released information on condolences and donations.

Jack Layton’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, and to continue the work of making Canada a better place, donations be made to the Broadbent Institute, in memoriam.

Canadians can also go to and click on Express your Condolences to leave a message about Jack Layton and what he meant to them. Donations to the Broadbent Institute can be made online at:

4:53pm. CBC and iPolitics have lists of some of the memorials taking place across the country tonight. A crowd is currently gathered in front of city hall in Toronto, where a chalk wall of tributes is taking shape.

4:59pm. Paul Hunter remembers his time with Professor Layton.

Jack preached the politics of getting involved, of doing the difficult but valuable street-level politics of going door to door and, to borrow from one of his recent campaign themes, sitting down at the kitchen table with regular people, listening to what they had to say. Above all, he insisted, don’t compromise on your principles. Otherwise, what’s the point? We students listened to Jack because he seemed a cool dude in a sea of less-than-cool teachers. We also listened because he seemed genuine — that he really believed what he was saying.

5:50pm. Some condolences we didn’t get to earlier from: the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Boreal InstituteCommunications, Energy and Paperworkers UnionCanadian Auto WorkersOntario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, Canadian Cancer Society, Ryerson University, Assembly of First Nations, Co-operative Housing Federation, Ontario Teachers’ Federation, Centre for Israel and Jewish  Affairs and United Steelworkers.

7:20pm. A tweet from Mr. Layton’s son, Mike.

You amaze me Canada. All the kind words, love and condolences are giving us strength through this very difficult time.

8:01pm. Jack Layton will receive a state funeral in Toronto on Saturday. He would seem to be the first leader of the opposition to receive such an honour.