Jack Layton has brought the New Democratic Party a long way, from fourth place in the House of Commons to official opposition.
But it’s now far from certain that he’ll be able to lead the party on the final march to, as he put it on Monday, “replace the Conservative government, a few short years from now.”
His announcement that he was stepping aside temporarily for further cancer treatments stunned Ottawa and the entire country.
“I will beat this new cancer,” he declared in Toronto, “and I will be back in the House of Commons to defend the values and priorities of Canadian families.”
Let’s hope so. Candles are being lit, and prayers said, on his behalf.
“If I have tried to bring anything to federal politics,” he continued, “it is that hope and optimism are at their heart.”
His voice was thin and his appearance shockingly gaunt, the result, said one close associate, of heavy chemotherapy treatments that have already begun. Hopefully, in that sense, the worst might already be behind him.
But even if he makes a speedy and full recovery, it is difficult to imagine that he will be well enough to lead the NDP in the House when it returns on Sept. 19.
Meantime, it did not pass unnoticed that Layton has recommended Nycole Turmel from his Quebec caucus, rather than Tom Mulcair, as interim leader of the NDP.