A new bout with cancer has forced Opposition Leader Jack Layton out of politics.
The 61-year-old leader of the New Democrats announced yesterday he will take a temporary leave of absence to focus on his health.
“On the advice of my doctors, I’m going to focus on treatment and recovery,” said a thin and frail-looking Layton, who has been successfully battling prostate cancer since February 2010. “I’m going to fight this cancer now so I can be back to fight for families when Parliament resumes.”
Layton said doctors discovered the new form of cancer after he starting feeling pain and stiffness near the end of the latest session of the House of Commons.
He did not say which type of cancer he had been diagnosed with.
The charismatic leader was seen as the driving force behind the NDP’s “orange crush” in the last federal election, which saw the party springboard to official Opposition status for the first time in its 50-year history.
Simon Fraser University political scientist Doug McArthur said Layton’s absence will be a huge blow to the party.
“They’re really going to have to dig down deep to keep focus and momentum,” he said. “Our system is so focused on strong leadership, and Jack was the central figure in the party’s surge.”
Vancouver East MP and NDP deputy leader Libby Davies said she’s inspired by Layton’s drive to recover and jump straight back into politics.
“I’ve known him since the ’80s, and that’s who he is. He lives his life, politically and personally, with a sense of hope,” she said. “When he says he’ll be back, he means it.”
The party plans to appoint an interim leader by Thursday afternoon.
Layton has suggested the role be given to caucus chair Nycole Turmel, a first-time MP.
WITH FILES FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS