An election campaign visit to the federal Nanaimo-Alberni riding turned into a regular personal vacation stop for late NDP leader Jack Layton, riding association president Ken Pearce said.
Layton died of cancer at his Toronto home with is loved ones by his side on Monday morning. He was 61.
“The NDP and Canada has lost a great man and he’ll be sorely missed,” Pearce said.
Layton was elected federal NDP leader in 2003 was the MP for the riding of Toronto—Danforth. He was an ardent campaigner and made barnstorm stops in Nanaimo-Alberni during the 2006 and 2011 elections.
In 2006 he visited Tofino and quietly became a regular visitor afterward. Environmentally conscious, Layton “…loved the scenery, the environment and the way people felt about sustainability,” Pearce said.
Layton and his wife Olivia later vacationed at a resort in Tofino and invited Pearce to visit.
“We met at a pub in Tofino with about 25 other people in the community and had an enjoyable evening,” Pearce said. “He loved that part of Canada and vacationed there whenever he could.”
In 2011 Layton is credited with catapulting the federal NDP from the 13-seat party he inherited to official opposition party status with 103 seats.
“The challenge now is finding a way to continue to move forward and maintain that momentum,” Pearce said.
Condolences and accolades for Layton crossed political lines, and that says something about the man. “He never had a mean thing to say to anyone,” Pearce said.“He viciously attacked policies and issues and not personalities – there’s too little of that in politics these days,” Pearce said.
James Lunney, Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP, said Layton’s ability to communicate and his personable demeanor made him a likable person despite a difference in political philosophies.
“Sixty-one is too young for anybody to die,” said Lunney.
“We knew it didn’t look good for him and it was amazing the energy he had during the last election campaign. But I will say this, Jack was passionate about his politics, he was an effective communicator, he motivated a lot of Canadians, played an important role in the political discourse of our nation, and for all of these reasons he will be missed.”
Lunney said he often chatted with Layton during flights and within the House of Commons.
“Jack struck a chord with a lot of Canadians. We may have disagreed with a lot of the message, but he was passionate. Even though we as a party had differences with Jack on philosophical aspects and approach to various issues, I always respected Jack as a human being and as a committed and passionate person,” he said.
Alberni Pacific-Rim MLA Scott Fraser’s office deferred to the provincial NDP caucus for comment.
While the country is the poorer for Layton’s passing, Canada is richer for his contribution over a lifetime in politics. Wherever he went and whoever he met, Jack made his mark with his optimism, dynamism and boundless energy, NDP leader Adrian Dix said.
“Jack Layton had a special ability to connect with the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people and young people especially,” Dix said.
“He was always focused on bringing positive change to Canada and we saw that in the extraordinary results in the last election.”
Layton was born in Montreal and raised in Hudson, Quebec.
He is survived by his wife Olivia Chow and by two children from a previous marriage.
With files from the Nanaimo News Bulletin