Hijal de Sarkar was not prepared for news of Jack Layton’s death when he set off for Parliament Hill Monday morning.
The 27-year-old parliamentary assistant to New Democratic Party MP Bruce Hyer said he was “shocked and saddened” when he went online and read the headlines.
He got an official e-mail from NDP headquarters shortly thereafter, announcing Layton passed away in his home at 4:45 am Monday in Toronto, surrounded by loved ones.
“I really thought he’d rest up, fight through and come back in September. I was really disappointed,” said de Sarkar. He and other staffers gathered in the Centre Block Monday to reflect on their memories of Layton.
“He was the kind of figure who could transcend partisan politics,” he said, adding that some of the most thoughtful condolence messages he has received today were from non-NDP supporting friends.
“He was always someone you could respect and admire."
While details concerning the party’s next steps and new leadership are unclear, one thing is certain: “the NDP has always been bigger than just one person,” said de Sarkar. “We are going to remember the values that Jack championed. Now is the time for us to work twice as hard to make that a reality.”