Jack Layton lost his biggest battle early Monday morning, succumbing to cancer. He was 61.
Surrounded by his wife, NDP MP Olivia Chow, other family members and friends, Mr. Layton died “peacefully at his home,” according to a statement issued by his wife and children Monday.
Mr. Layton looked gaunt, his voice very weak, when he held a news conference last month in Toronto to announce he was suffering from a second cancer. He vowed, then, that he would be back to work when the House of Commons resumed on Sept. 19.
He did not reveal what that cancer was. It is still not known.
At that time, he asked his caucus to accept a rookie MP, Nycole Turmel, as interim leader. It is not clear now whether she will continue in that role or how a formal leadership transition will work.
A popular politician – nicknamed Smiling Jack, for his charm and enthusiasm with life and politics – Mr. Layton orchestrated his party going from third place to Official Opposition status in the May 2 election.
Although he had been fighting a prostate cancer diagnosis and a fractured hip, he appeared healthy during the campaign. In fact, the cane he used to support himself became a lightning rod as the party’s support grew and grew.
The NDP victory in the election was based primarily on a huge breakthrough in Quebec and the collapse of the Bloc Québécois
In an lengthy interview with The Globe and Mail the day before the government fell last March, Mr. Layton said that he was fine, did not know why his hip had fractured but said the cancer had not spread.
He had led the NDP since 2003, and had just turned 61 on July 18.