Jack Layton (1950-2011)
Through three decades of public service, and as Leader of Canada's New Democrats from 2003-2011, Jack Layton dedicated his life to a building a better, fairer Canada.
Months after taking his place in Parliament, Layton displayed his remarkable ability to get things done for families. By rewriting the 2005 budget, Layton successfully diverted $4.6-billion from corporate tax giveaways to important priorities like affordable housing, education and public transit.
Getting things done for people was the hallmark of Layton’s years in Ottawa. Day in and day out, he showed a rare passion, determination and skill. Both a fighter and bridge-builder, he never lost sight of why he was involved in public life.
Canadians quickly took notice of the Layton led NDP. Over four elections under Layton, the party grew from 13 MPs to 103, while quadrupling its national vote. That included breakthroughs in Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador. He turned the New Democrats into a real political alternative, reshaping Parliament and giving hope to millions of Canadians who wish for a brighter future.
Layton and his stronger team of MPs consistently held Stephen Harper to account—on job creation, affordability, health care wait times and fighting global warming. At the same time, he found ways to work across party lines to get results. In 2008, Layton was instrumental in bringing about the Prime Minister’s apology to survivors of Indian Residential Schools.
In 2011, Layton brought the party to unprecedented heights. Canadians elected a record-breaking 103 New Democrat MPs, representing every part of the country. Layton became leader of the largest Official Opposition in 31 years—and the first formed by New Democrats. With 59 Quebec MPs, Layton’s team emerged not only as a credible government-in-waiting, but as a force for Canadian unity.Through it all, Layton took strength from his family—his partner, and fellow Member of Parliament, Olivia Chow, children Sarah and Mike, and his granddaughter Beatrice.
Layton’s torch will now be carried by every person who believes in a better tomorrow, every person who believes in dignity for our seniors and better opportunity for our youth – and by every person who believes through working together, we can make our great country even better.
As Jack wrote in his final letter to Canadians:
My friends, love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the world.