NDP leader Jack Layton dies

Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:45am EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Jack Layton, the charismatic leader of the New Democratic Party, died on Monday just months after guiding his party to its strongest ever performance in the May federal election.

Layton, 61, had almost single-handedly turned his leftist party from the smallest bloc in the House of Commons to the second largest in the House of Commons.

"He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones," a statement from his family said.

The cheerful former municipal politician from Toronto had won admiration for his bravado and stamina on the campaign trail, pumping a walking cane in the air soon after a hip operation and treatment for prostate cancer.

Rather than making him look weak, pundits said it gave the ever-cheerful Layton a warmer image than his political rivals, boosting his party's popularity even as Stephen Harper's Conservatives were returned to office with a majority.

The NDP's strong showing meant that the party displaced the Liberals as the official opposition in the House of Commons. It will retain that status until the next election, due in 2015, but will have to redefine itself in Layton's absence.

Although the Conservatives dismissed the NDP as tax-loving socialists, Layton had nudged the party toward the center, effectively splitting the left-of-center vote.

During the 2011 campaign he promised to balance the budget in four years by boosting corporate taxes and raising other revenues to offset tens of billions in new spending.   Continued...

 
<p>New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton speaks at a news conference in Toronto, July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>