RIP, Jack Layton

RIP, Jack Layton, former Toronto councillor and present head of Canada's New Democratic Party. He was as good a politician as Canada ever had, and better than anyone who's been on any of the ballots I've been allowed to tick for many, many years. Layton died from cancer; he announced his prostate cancer diagnosis in February 2010, and stepped down in July. He was 61.
Layton died at his home in Toronto early on Monday surrounded by his wife and children, his family said in a statement.

His left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) surged to become the official opposition for the first time in May's elections.

Jack Layton, Canadian opposition leader, dies aged 61

(Image: Jack Layton, Leaders Tour - Tournée du Chef - Jack Layton, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mattjiggins's photostream)

Start the discussion at


  1. A really sad day for Canada. He was so loved, and is largely responsible for bringing Quebec back to Federal politics. He’ll be missed greatly. In stark contrast to the way that conservatives would dance on the graves of their left-leaning opponents down south, his passing, I’m sure, will be marked with great sadness by all Canadians.

  2. Really really sad to hear this on CBC radio this morning.  Took me aback, I almost had to pull over to contain myself.  Such an incredible guy.  The times I met him he was always genial, positive and welcoming.  Canada has lost an amazing citizen.

  3. Very sad. As a point of fact, they had claimed when he left for treatment that this cancer was unrelated to his previous prostate cancer, so maybe it wasn’t prostate cancer that took him down. No one seems to be saying. He will be missed; he was a little dose of sanity in a crazy world.

  4. He did not die from prostate cancer; he died from a different type of cancer.

    “Following the 2011 federal election, Jack Layton announced on July
    25, 2011, that he would be taking a temporary leave from his post to
    fight an unspecified, newly diagnosed cancer.”

    Either way, RIP Jack Layton. Canada’s (should have been) amazing PM.

  5. This Tommy Douglas quote was one of Jack’s (and my) favorites: “Courage, my friends;
    ’tis not too late to build a better world.”
    You can rest now Jack. It’s up to us now.

    1. I just saw this on Friday, for the first time, on the window outside of Brian Masse’s office in Windsor.

  6. Jack Layton was a rare breed and a type of politician, for good or bad, that
    comes so infrequently. Canadian politics needed him desperately… He proved
    that in the last election. My thoughts are with his family. Jacky…
    you will be missed…

  7. This makes me very sad. He was one of the few politicians for whom I’ve ever had any respect. =(

    My thoughts go out to his wife and family.

  8. We’ll miss you, Jack.

    Canada needs more politicians like you. Brave, hard-working, honest, cool mustache. Man, you were the coolest of all.

  9. Canadian politics won’t be the same without him.

    R.I.P Jack

    Damn, I was so looking forward to him ripping it up in Parliament :(

  10. Jack was a good man which makes for a truly great politician; there were few like him. A sad day for our our country but a sense of pride that he was our own.

  11. In reply to nanuq:

    Wasn’t the same said of Ed Broadbent before Jack Layton emerged as leader? Unfortunately, politics in the modern world has never quite evolved from a contest among personalities to a contest of ideas. But so long as this condition remains the case, new personalities will emerge and now within the ranks of the NDP they have an opportunity to do so.

    RIP Jack, you were dignified and worthy of respect to the end.

    1. > politics in the modern world has never quite evolved from a contest among personalities to a contest of ideas.

      Stephen Harper is proof that personalities cannot be the determining factor in Canadian politics, at least. No one could be more wooden or less charismatic in person than our current Canadian prime minister. (On the other hand, I don’t think much of Harper’s ideas, either, so God only knows what is determining Canadian politics these days…)

  12. I had this terrible feeling a month ago when he announced his leave, looking so thin, that he would not be back.

    Bitterly disappointed that it went that way. Such a loss.

  13. I think the most impressive thing about him was that he was the same guy when the cameras were off. He used to show up to benefit concerts friends and I put on about a decade ago. I think that’s how I’ll remember him, dancing a bit, holding a beer and fighting the good fight with a big smile on his face. He would’ve made a great PM.

  14. He was the only damn politician speaking sense in the last election.
    I don’t normally vote NDP, but this time I did; I will definitely vote for them next time if his successor is half as intelligent.

  15. This news hit me hard this morning.  I feel saddended by the death of a
    great man and despair at the thought of Canadian politics without him.  I
    mean… where else are we going to find a politician who wore his heart
    and his nerdiness on his sleeve. 

  16. I teach Grade 11 and 12 in BC.  During the last election Jack made my Grade 11s excited to vote and even angry that they could not vote for another few years.  My Grade 12s went out and voted for the first time believing there was a party who represented their voice.  Jack Layton’s leadership made a new generation of Canadians excited for democracy, he will be sorely missed.

  17. Crap. It does seem that only the good die young and conservatives seem to live forever. I consider myself lucky to be the rare american who stumbled on to the CBC back in the pre-NPR (and WAY pre-Internet) era where one could hear serious discussions including social democrats at least occasionally. Layton was one of the few leaders that managed to break through the center right – far right drumbeat of the North American media and capture the public’s attention in the last 40 years. And now when we need someone like that the most, he is gone. 

  18. I should feel sad, and there’s a little of that, but mostly I feel angry.  Angry at life, and death, and at the gross unfairness of losing Mr. Layton about 30 years early.  

    I don’t consider myself deeply political, but Jack Layton made me feel like the NDP was more than just a dead echo of old good ideas.  

    god fucking damn it.  I am really upset.

  19. What a sad day. What I find equally tragic as the death of a wonderful man is the potential death of a still comparatively new party. Unfortunately, like most other countries, we Canadians seem to have a pretty short collective memory when it comes to positives. In 4 years time without Jack’s leadership skills, public speaking skills and personality, the NDP could very well be in a tough spot which would be a terrible thing for the country. 

    Today I fear Canada may very well have lost it’s conscience.

  20. what a legacy to leave, jack. what a fight to the end. i hope that history remembers you as a hero for waging such a political battle while fighting for your life as well. may you find peace.

  21. We will miss you Jack, as our beloved T.O Danforth MP …even in your passing your words resonate a profound impact/inspiration upon current revolutionary struggles in the Arab world…it is no surprise that Stephen Harper took a page from your socialist book & demanded the ousting of brutal Syrian dictator Basher Al-Assad. Read and enjoy one of Jack’s last email replies to me dated Feb 7th, 2011:

    “Thank you for contacting me about the civil unrest that is occurring in the Middle East. The public actions taking place in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Jordan have captured the world’s attention including the great interest of many in Canada.

    Please know that New Democrats unequivocally support the will of the people who are standing up for democratic reforms in their country. We see this as a pivotal moment in the history of the region: where citizens are demanding that their voices be heard and that they be allowed to shift away from government oppression and move closer towards a fair and just democratic process.

    As we monitor the situation in Egypt, we remain deeply concerned about the safety of protesters. President Mubarak’s insistence to delay his departure from power has clearly contributed to further violence and destabilization. New Democrats firmly believe he must bow to the demands of the Egyptian people and immediately resign his position as President.

    New Democrat Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar has been vigilant in demanding that our government act immediately in support of the people of Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and, most recently, Jordan, who are rising up against oppressive regimes. He said, “What we are observing in the region is a strong expression of desire for over-due political reforms: a fair economy, an end to corruption, transparent representative governments, and the upholding of rights and freedoms. New Democrats hold these to be universal values and support the democratic aspirations of the region.”

    You can read Mr. Dewar’s statements on the issue at the following links: and

    We are disappointed that the Harper government has been too slow in responding to these momentous events-seen as the most critical in the recent history of the region. The people of Egypt are demanding democratic reform, and, as an influential democratic nation, our Canadian government should be prepared to stand by them, firmly condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters, and defend their right to democratic change.

    Also, as earlier events in Tunisia unfolded, I reiterated our party’s commitment to the peaceful will of the Tunisian people as they fought for their basic civil and democratic rights. I said, “Because Canada and Tunisia have a history of cooperation; New Democrats believe the Canadian government is well-positioned to use its diplomatic ties to pressure the Tunisian government to stop its attacks on civilians and respect the rights of activists, journalists and lawyers as well as those who participate in peaceful demonstrations. Remaining silent on this issue would be an irresponsible lack of leadership on the part of the Canadian government.”

    You can read my full statement here:

    Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views on this pressing issue. Please be assured that New Democrats will continue to follow this compelling situation closely.”


    Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
    Leader, Canada`s New Democrats

  22. Canadians are truly heartbroken today. There is still a sense of shock; the man was only 61, seen by many as a fighter who (if anyone) could beat cancer. He was a smiling, friendly optimist, fresh from the victory of bringing the first NDP Official Opposition to the House of Commons. Regardless of your politics, it was hard to really dislike him. 

    Let the shock of his death not fade quickly from our minds. Let Jack’s memory galvanize us, and hopefully his dreams of a better Canada can be made reality, even if Jack isn’t here to personally see them through.

    Goodbye Jack. And thank you.

  23. This is really too bad. I believe that Canada is going to suffer because of his absence.

    Jack never impressed me except for the last few years of his life. I believe If he had lived another ten years, I would have forgiven him all of his sins. 

  24. This is a very sad day. Jack Layton will be missed. He was a great leader – not a perfect man, but a man who learned from his mistakes, worked hard to help those less fortunate than him, and had the passion and energy it takes to be a leader of a socialist party that represents a lot of different people.

    What hurts most about this is that this happened now, when his hard work was starting to pay off. Not fair at all. But that’s life, and the last thing Jack would want is for us to be pessimistic – “let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

  25. Jack Layton was a great public servant.  As a City Councillor, as my MP and as Leader of the Opposition – he embodied the most important characteristic I know in democratic politics; he made me feel listened to.  He never forgot who he was working for.  I will miss him.

  26. Rest in peace, Mr Layton.

    This is truly sad news. I didn’t always agree with him, but I respected him, and I voted for him.

    He will be missed.

  27. It is a sad day for Canada.. Jack Layton was a believer in Canada.  Jack Layton’s absence from the political table will be a profound loss.
    – Nalliah Thayabharan

  28. Living in Jacks Riding wasn’t always easy, but he always had the time to respond to you…he made the time. On the CBC website there is some lonely troll thumbs down-ing all the comments…unfortunately, those are the people who seem to live forever… the best and brightest burn out too damn early… god damnit Jack… we needed you!… sorry… all over the map with the news.

  29. So very sad. So many so hoped he could beat this latest bout with cancer…he was so optimistic, such a fighter…but that was who he was.
    It is incredibly telling that so many Canadians, even those who didn’t agree with his politics…are not only saddened by his passing, but voicing how much respect they had for him.
    He stood by his beliefs & passions, mostly about fighting for the underdogs & everyday Canadians, throughout his career. He matured into a leader who earned people’s respect, who got things done, who was himself whether in front of the camera or walking in his neighbourhood.
    He was coming into a time when his passion & his experience was changing the Canadian government scene for the better…for the people.
    He will be very sadly missed. R.I.P. Jack Layton.

  30. I remember back in the mid-late 90’s when I was a student at UofT, it wasn’t at all odd to see Jack or Olivia just wandering around the streets, riding their bikes, showing up unannounced at various community events.  He really did like to talk to people and just listen to their concerns and input.  I made the move to Ottawa afterwords and was ridiculously happy to learn that Jack and Olivia had made the leap to federal politics, bringing a much needed sense of local retail politics to what had become a fairly echo-chamber scene.

    Jack, the Orange Crush is dead.  Long live the Orange Crush.

  31. I used to live on the Danforth, and I’d see him and Olivia riding a tandem bike on occasion. Pretty much the cutest thing in the world. You were one of the best of us, Jack.

  32. We (a couple of folks in Halifax) created a web site where you can post condolences for Jack Layton and his family. Share your thoughts and we will forward them on in a couple of weeks. Please “like” the site so more people can find out about it and post their notes.

Comments are closed.