Canadians from across the political spectrum are saluting Layton's contributions to his party and his country.
Lucy Martin has more.
If convention was any guide, Canada's
most recent election would have been a contest between the
Conservatives - under incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper - and
the Liberals, lead by Michael Ignatieff. But this election took a
number of historic shifts, largely thanks to Jack Layton.
Layton started out as a left-wing professor and city councillor in Toronto, before becoming leader of the New Democratic Party – which typically trailed in a field of four.
When the election was called in late March, Layton was just recovering from prostate cancer and also needed a cane after hip surgery. There were doubts he could endure an intense, cross-country campaign.
But Layton did more than
endure. He regained his vigor, and emerged as the race's "happy
warrior". His upbeat message took his party to an unprecedented
Many observers felt the turning point came in April's debates, when Layton challenged his Liberal rival, as can still be heard on YouTube:
Jack Layton: "I have to pick up on something Mr. Ignatieff said. He said before you have to walk the walk, and have to be a strong leader and respect Parliament. I've got to ask you then, why do you have the worst attendance record in the house of commons, of any Member of Parliament? If you want to be Prime Minister, you'd better learn how to be a Member of Parliament first. You know, most Canadians, if they don't show up for work, they don't get a promotion."
Stephen Harper went on to a decisive win. But Layton's populist appeal swept away both the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, in an upset that completely altered Canada's political landscape.
If Layton's success was sweet, it was also heart-breakingly short.
By July 25th, a suddenly-frail Layton
announced he was taking temporary leave, to face a second,
unspecified cancer. Layton's determined optimism was so much a part
of his image that his death this morning took many by surprise.
Today Layton is being hailed for his decades of public service and warmly recalled just for being Jack: a down-to-earth guy who showed up, did his job and left nearly everyone glad to know him.
For North Country Public Radio, I'm Lucy Martin, in Ottawa.