Daya Varma


Jack  Layton  was  the Leader of the Official Opposition in the current Canadian Parliament comprising of 308 members. He represented a Toronto constituency.  In the May 2, 2011 parliamentary elections, Layton lead the New Democratic Party (NDP) to all time high 103 seats pushing the Canadian Liberal Party to third place and decimating Bloc  Québécois, which won only four seats instead of the majority of seats in Quebec, as was the case in the past.


The key to Layton’s appeal was his ability to mobilize youth who previously did not participate in electoral politics.


NDP polled 30% of popular votes, only 10% less than the Conservative Party, which won the majority of seats with only 40% of the popular vote.

NDP is a social democratic party. There is no equivalent of NDP in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Politically, the closest to NDP in South Asia is the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist). NDP is not like the socialist parties in India, which were and are primarily anti-communist,

Jack Layton was elected as the  leader of NDP in 2003. Layton made NDP as the voice of progressive Canadians and gave hope to resolving the national question championed by the  Bloc  Québécois in Quebec, with a majority of French speaking population. Yet, unlike other parties,  NDP is cognizant of Quebec national question.


Layton was the product of the student and labor movement of 1970s and a very popular leader. He had prostate cancer, which was thought to have been under control. Layton campaigned for the May 2011 elections despite his bad health and with the help of a cane and in good spirits. Soon after the election, he announced suffering from a second cancer and promised to resume his role as the leader of the opposition; but he could not. Jack Layton died on August 22, 2011.



August 20, 2011


Dear Friends,


Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.


Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.


I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.


I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.


A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.


To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support ,and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.


To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.


To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.


To young Canadians: 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. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our c collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.


And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.


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.


All my very best,


Jack Layton




Jack Layton was accorded a state funeral on August 27, very unusual for the leader of the opposition. Thousands of people lined up, many waiting for more than two hours, to pay their respects. Memorial meetings were held all across Canada. St. John’s where I live is  a small city of 150,000 people; yet on August 24, more than one thousand people gathered at a memorial meeting on a one-day notice.


The national flag ran half-mast on all public buildings. The last letter to Canadians written two days before he died was, according to Stephen Lewis, the former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, “a manifesto’ of social democracy, a road map for making Canada a just society. Lewis said that Layton died at the “pinnacle’ of his career.


The Principal of McGill University, from where Layton graduated in 1971, issued a condolence  statement on Aug. 22, 2011, which noted:


“Just a year ago, Mr. Layton visited our campus to meet with the incoming class of first-year McGill students. Higher education, he told them, ‘is an investment in making a better world, in finding solutions to some of the challenges that we’re dealing with as a community, as a global society, as a series of neighborhoods.

Top - Home