Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Canada bids farewell to Layton

Niagara Falls is illuminated in orange, to honour the late New Democrats party leader Jack Layton (AP)

The wife of Jack Layton, the leader of Canada's opposition party, called him an "idealist, the optimist", during a video tribute at his funeral, a celebration of the life of a man Canadians referred to as "le bon Jack", the good guy.

The leader of the New Democrat party died of cancer earlier this week at the age of 61.

Under his upbeat leadership, the leftist New Democrats outpolled the Liberals and became the official opposition party for the first time in their 50 year history, in spite of campaigning while he battled prostate cancer and as he underwent hip surgery.

Mr Layton helped the party rise to new stature nationally and gain prominence in Quebec, where the Bloc Quebecois party had maintained a stronghold for years.

His daughter Sarah Layton said during a touching eulogy: "On election night 2008, you left the victory party crying, honest tears of joy, not because you'd won more New Democrat seats, but because as you were leaving, Hugh and I called you 'grandpa Jack' for the very first time, it was our way of telling you we were expecting your first grandchild."

Mr Layton was a career politician, entering municipal politics in 1982 as a leftist Toronto city councillor, then moving on to lead the federal New Democrat party.

The folksy leader was known as the voice for the voiceless, advocating for the rights of the gay community, immigrants, the underprivileged, Aids patients and victims of domestic abuse, starting an organisation and campaign to end violence against women 20 years ago.

"He poured everything into achieving his goals," said Michael Layton, his son and a Toronto councillor.

"I remember advice he gave ... 'Always have a dream that is longer than a lifetime'," said Michael Layton, who shared childhood stories of a father-and-son biking trip on less than favourable terrain and a sailing trip during inclement weather.

"When we were stuck in the middle of the lake on the water, he said to me, 'You can wait for perfect conditions or you can make the best of what you have now'," said his son. "That's what he did every day of his life; he made the most of his life."