Local politicians remember Jack Layton

NDP leader Jack Layton and local federal candidate Mark Shmigelsky speak with seniors in Cranbrook on a pre-election tour last spring. - Kootenay Advertiser Archive
NDP leader Jack Layton and local federal candidate Mark Shmigelsky speak with seniors in Cranbrook on a pre-election tour last spring.
— image credit: Kootenay Advertiser Archive

Canadians around the country, from all walks of life and with various political backgrounds are mourning the passing of Jack Layton. The federal New Democratic Party leader lost his battle with cancer early Monday at age 61.

Layton's death comes just months after he led the NDP to Official Opposition status in Canadian Parliament, a first for the party. Local NDP members acknowledge the immense impact Layton had not only on the federal stage, but also right here in the East Kootenay.

"He obviously had a great impact on my politics," says Mark Shmigelsky, who ran as the NDP candidate for the Kootenay-Columbia riding in the last federal election. "Part of the reason I switched parties was because of Jack's commitment to people."

Shmigelsky points out that despite the fact it was a long shot to win this riding, the NDP leader made a personal commitment to the region and visited the Kootenays not once, but twice during his election campaign.

The last time Layton visited the area in the spring, Shmigelsky remembers, you could tell he was in a battle, walking with the help of his signature cane, but still the party leader was full of energy and passion for Canadians.

His letter to Canadians, penned just days before his death, Shmigelsky says, shows once more his commitment to the country. "Basically on your last breath," he marvels, "and you're thinking about the youth, environment and creating a sustainable economy." Even with the huge loss, Jack Layton's inspiration will live on in the party, Shmigelsky is convinced.

NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, Norm Macdonald, says Jack Layton brought Canadians hope for real change. "All those who met Jack were impressed by his incredible energy.  He was a real fighter who showed grit and determination in the face of adversity."

"His life was spent in public service both as a Toronto city councilor and as an MP.  His commitment to social justice and the environment were evident throughout his long political career," Macdonald continues. "Jack will be remembered as a leader who held fast to his principles and fought everyday to make life better for ordinary Canadians."

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