Jack Layton could not keep his promise to return to the House of Commons, but the memory of the former NDP leader was very much alive Monday when politicians took their seats for the first time since his death in August.
“One of the pleasures of serving in this place is the friendships that develop, and sometimes the surprise of friendships that grow between opponents, the affections that develop in spite of our strongest partisan instincts,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said to lead off a round of tributes from all corners of the House.
“I cannot think of another leader, at least not in our time, whose campaign was described as gallant,” the Prime Minister said. “However, Jack’s campaign inspired and merited that description.”
Mr. Layton hobbled through much of the election campaign, first on a crutch and then on a cane, after hip surgery that was performed just weeks before the vote was called.
Mr. Harper also commended Mr. Layton’s widow, NDP MP Olivia Chow, for the courage and dignity she displayed in the days after she lost her husband of 23 years. Ms. Chow, in return, thanked the Prime Minister for offering Mr. Layton the honour of a state funeral that permitted thousands of Canadians to personally pay their respects.
“The generosity of Canadians has been a source of great strength for me and for our family in these past weeks,” said Ms. Chow, who told the Common she has been overwhelmed by the inspiring messages she has received.
The daily question period, which marked the first appearance of Nycole Turmel as interim Leader of the NDP, was dominated by questions about the economy. Ms. Turmel, who stood beside Mr. Layton’s empty chair, asked whether the Conservatives had plans to create jobs for the millions of Canadians who are out of work.
Mr. Harper dismissed that line of inquiry, saying there are more people working in Canada today than there were before the 2008 recession and pointing out that Canada has weathered the storm better than other developed economies.