Hours after news spread of Jack Layton’s death Monday morning, Greater Victoria MPs were effusive with compliments for the former NDP leader.
Visionary, courageous, inspiring, boundlessly optimistic and doggedly determined were how Denise Savoie and Randall Garrison remember the man they both credit for getting them into federal politics.
“I feel like I’ve lost a friend and a leader, and I sense that Canadians feel sad, too,” Savoie said in a tearful interview Monday morning. “He was a guy who spoke from the heart, and that always came through.”
Layton, 61, stepped down as the New Democratic leader last month after revealing he was battling a second bout of cancer. The official opposition leader was frail and gaunt during an appearance July 25, after fighting off prostate cancer last year.
He led his party to a surprise showing in the May 2 election, helping the NDP win 103 seats across the country, up from 37 seats in the prior election.
“It was that dogged determinism he had that ‘this could be done, you just had to work at it,’ that was so inspiring to me,” said Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. “It’s that inspiration and boundless optimism of his – and I think that’s what a lot of people responded to.”
Shortly after his death, the NDP released a statement Layton reportedly wrote to Canadians while on his deathbed.
“You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future,” he wrote. “All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada.”
Savoie, MP for Victoria, says hope and optimism defined Layton, both as a politician and a friend.
“Jack was a bridge builder, and I saw that within the party and across Canada,” she said. “But Jack always said that what he was building was a movement – it was a collective effort. I hope we can carry on that vision because that’s what he left us, his legacy.”
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, released a statement saying: “Jack will always be remembered for his unfailing love of Canada and his dedication to this country and its citizens.”
Layton spent nearly three decades in politics, first as a city councillor in Toronto and then federally with the NDP.
Even in his final words, Layton’s stalwart optimism and steadfast direction for his party and country didn’t waiver.
“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.”