THUNDER BAY – I’m sure many of you were also shocked and saddened to learn that New Democrat Leader Jack Layton is battling a second type of cancer and taking some time off from his job as Leader of the Official Opposition to receive treatment and begin his recovery. As such, I would like to use this space to briefly comment upon Jack’s character and his current health situation and introduce you to our new Interim-Leader Nycole Turmel.
The news of Jack’s illness was shocking to say the least. After beating prostate cancer, and giving himself just two months to recover from hip surgery, Jack lead our party to our best electoral result ever on May 2nd. All the more impressive was the fact that during the campaign, just two short months removed from hip surgery, Jack was the only party leader to not take a single day off from the campaign trail despite working through considerable physical pain and having to make use of a cane for most of the campaign period. At the end of the campaign Jack’s health was improving and his spirits were high which is why his announcement this week was so surprising.
I remain a firm believer that you can’t keep a good man down, and that Jack Layton is a very good man. Time and again he has shown that he is a fighter and winner and I am certain that he will again rise in the House of Commons to lead our caucus and hold this government to account. Throughout his time in public life Jack has faced long odds and prevailed every time. Most notably, he has stared down prostate cancer and won and led a fourth place party to its best result ever and Official Opposition status. Having had the chance to work up close with him for several years now, I am certain that if anyone has the determination to beat cancer a second time that it is Jack Layton.
Upon announcing his temporary leave last week Jack also recommended that Nycole Turmel, the New Democrat MP for Hull-Aylmer in Québec, lead the caucus and party in the interim. I believe that Nycole was an excellent choice for the Interim-Leader position and was satisfied to see her appointment ratified unanimously by both the New Democrat caucus and our party’s Federal Council. Nycole may not yet be a household name to most Canadians, but she is well known in New Democrat circles and I am certain that she will prove to be an effective Interim-Leader while Jack is on the mend.
Nycole was first elected to the House of Commons in the May 2nd election as part of the ‘Orange Wave’ that swept through Québec and other parts of Canada. Before standing as a candidate for the New Democratic Party in the last election, Nycole was the first woman to lead the 170,000 member strong Public Service Alliance of Canada and has been involved in the New Democratic Party for more than two decades. Her term at the helm of PSAC was so well regarded that upon her retirement a Research Chair at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) was named in her honour. Nycole is very well known in Québec and respected as a strong leader, and I am very comfortable with her taking the reins of our caucus while Jack undergoes treatment for his illness and begins his recovery.
If you would like to read Jack’s statement from this past week in its entirety you can visit the New Democrat website at www.ndp.ca/press/jack-laytons-statement. Likewise, if you would like to learn more about our Interim-Leader Nycole Turmel you can read her profile at www.ndp.ca/ndp-caucus-chair.
Finally, if you would like to offer your own personalized best wishes to Jack during his recovery you can submit them at www.ndp.ca/get-well-jack.
I have been told that Jack is reading each and every greeting during his time away from work, so I hope you will join me in offering our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recover to this most extraordinary man.
With our love and support I know Jack will win this fight.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River