The Globe searched through its archives for memorable moments from Jack Layton's political career.
Alderman Jack Layton in his office at City Hall on Jan. 5, 1983. Dennis Robinson
Layton wins Ward 6 race
Frustrated tenants in Toronto’s Ward 6 helped hand Mr. Layton his first major victory in the 1982 municipal election. Mr. Layton, then a political science professor at York University, was considered a dark horse candidate who amassed groundswell support on a campaign for stronger rent controls. The election was dismal for most NDP candidates, but Mr. Layton defeated “Conservative golden-boy” Gordon Chong by 1,709 votes Here is an article excerpt: ELECTION '82: Will Toronto voters stay at home? November 6, 1982 A month ago, pundits confidently predicted that the only question in the city's downtown core was whether freshman Alderman Gordon Chong would lose his Metro seat to former mayor John Sewell; even Dr. Chong admits that the chances of his hanging on to the top spot are slim at best. But the rising anger of tenants who face massive rent increases has played into the hands of NDP candidate Jack Layton, a political science professor who accuses Dr. Chong of voting against tenants' interests. Mr. Layton, who wants stronger rent controls, has fielded a small army of canvassers and seems doggedly determined to pull the tenant vote.
A more confident Layton - 1985
In office, Mr. Layton’s convictions became pronounced. Several times, the rookie alderman protested alongside union workers during labour disputes. In 1985, he attended a joint demonstration with other politicians on behalf of Visa workers, which resulted in the CIBC closing his bank account. In November of that year, the confident politician easily won his Metropolitan Toronto council spot with 62.2 per cent of the vote. Here is an article excerpt: Layton proved right November 13, 1985 With only about 4 per cent of the Ward 6 vote counted last night, a confident Jack Layton, beer in hand, declared that he and his Ward 6 running mate, Dale Martin, had won again. Mr. Layton's prediction proved to be right. The incumbent New Democratic Party team watched with a subdued and small crowd as the two took poll after poll from their challengers in this central downtown ward. (The earlier results had been mainly from the business sector.) "This is a first step in a big battle," Mr. Layton, who won easily as Metro councillor with 8,716 votes, told cheering supporters later as the crowd swelled to more than 100.
The lead up to Toronto's mayoral race
Mr. Layton was already establishing himself as a mayoral candidate for the election alongside a coalition of so-called “reformers” – NDP members and sympathizers who brought left-leaning values to council. Considered senior politician among his peers, Mr. Layton told reporters in 1988 that he had a mandate to replace a “largely corrupt city council and bring runaway development to heel.” It was a reference to close ties between politicians and building developers, which were exposed in a series of Globe reports. The corruption comment quickly landed him in hot water with the media. Here is an article excerpt: Layton learns leadership lesson early December 3, 1988 "I'm going to have to hide from you guys," he joked in an interview. Indeed, at one point this week, he uncharacteristically rushed past a horde of reporters outside his City Hall office who were waiting to quiz him about his corruption comment. A politician who is not known for mincing his words, Mr. Layton is now learning how to measure them. For some reformers, his faux pas may be a blessing in disguise. They do not want to be overshadowed by Mr. Layton, who has six years of experience on council and is well acquainted with how to get his name in the news. If he actually becomes a bit media shy, it might provide a chance for them to grab some coveted attention.
A failed mayoral bid
The 1991 mayoral race was divided between three right-leaning politicians and Mr. Layton. His association to the NDP may have helped in past campaigns, but a cautious electorate seemed wary of trusting another NDP candidate after the widely unpopular Ontario Premier Bob Rae. By early October, mayoral candidate Susan Fish dropped from the race, saying the campaign came down to “picking sides.” Her departure left voters with a choice between Mr. Layton and former city councillor and chairman of the Toronto Police Commission June Rowlands. Mr. Layton would go on to lose the race to Ms. Rowlands by a margin of almost 2-1. But his sentiments during the campaign would mark the conviction carried on to federal campaigns. Here is an article excerpt: Fish withdraws from mayoral race Toronto voters left with 'clear choice' October 19, 1991 Mr. Layton said: "It certainly gives the people of this city a very clear choice. They can either go with the old ways, with the old crowd, or they can adopt a new strategy for the city, a new vision that's developed and backed by some of the most creative and positive thinking people in this city." ... Mr. Layton, who has carried the NDP banner since being elected a city councillor in 1982, has emphasized environmental and social issues but rejects the charge he is anti-development. Rather, he argues that he is for development that serves the communities into which it is going and opposes only development that serves only to enrich the developers themselves.
A slow recovery
The next few years would be rocky for Mr. Layton. In 1993, he returned from his failed mayoral bid and tried for a seat in Toronto’s Rosedale riding – but lost handily to Liberal Bill Graham. Mr. Layton ran a quiet campaign in 1994 for a council spot in Metro Toronto, mentioned only a dozen times in articles by The Globe and Mail. He tried again in 1997 for another seat as a member of parliament, but was defeated by Dennis Mills. Here is an excerpt from the article: Homeless on weary trek to nowhere July 26, 1997 "We have a population of nomads right in the middle of the city," said Councillor Jack Layton, co-chairman of Metro's Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, which produced the report. "It's astonishing. We're seeing people walking through the snow with open sandals because that's all they have. They've picked up a pair of used shoes somewhere out of a box at some agency. They're wearing socks that are completely soaking. And these folks can't get on the streetcar."
Back to the limelight
It wasn’t until 2003 that Mr. Layton returned to prominence in a bid for leader of the NDP – then a party pushed to obscurity with low showings at the polls and a median age of 59 for party members. Without a seat in the House of Commons, Mr. Layton was attacked by chief rival Bill Blaikie as potentially delaying the NDP’s return to prominence. But Mr. Layton attracted support from members who thought the NDP needed a fresh face with fresh ideas. Here is an article excerpt: The NDP is rolling the dice with Layton By John Ibbitson January 27, 2003 In choosing Jack Layton to be their new leader, the New Democrats have embarked on the Great Gamble, severing their ties to their political roots, hoping for revival, risking oblivion. Jack Layton is everything the old New Democratic Party was not. Suave, coiffed, smooth as his silk ties, he will have little resonance with the worker on the factory floor. A downtown Toronto politician, he would be anathema to the prairie populists who were the soul of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation and its successor, the NDP.
Mr. Layton was successful in his two years as party leader. By December 2003, the NDP emerged as second-place rivals to the Liberals, up four per cent in support since October of that year. Mr. Layton was also hoping to translate that success into a seat for himself in Parliament. By 2004, he was running against Liberal Dennis Mills and his party was eager for enough seats to hold the balance of power in a Liberal minority. He was successful on both counts, defeating Mr. Mills and boosting the number seats for the NDP. Here is an article excerpt: NDP poised to hold the balance of power June 29, 2004 Yesterday's election was the first real test of Mr. Layton's leadership of the NDP. A relative newcomer to the federal scene, he only took the NDP helm in January 2003 after beating veteran party MPs for the job. But he's no political neophyte, having spent 17 years in the hurly-burly of Toronto municipal politics and one year heading a lobby group of big- and small-city mayors. The 53-year-old NDP Leader's mission was to rejuvenate the party, which had seen its political fortunes slump over the last decade, winning only nine seats in 1993, 21 in 1997 and 13 in 2000. (It won an extra seat to make 14 in a 2002 by-election.) Mr. Layton campaigned at a frenetic pace over the 36-day race, starting with a pre-campaign concert in Toronto hosted by Barenaked Ladies' singer Steven Page and ending in the same town at gay Pride celebrations on June 27. Anxious to differentiate himself from the Liberals, Mr. Layton offered an unapologetically left-wing platform, pledging to fund massive new health and social spending by extracting $45-billion in new taxes over five years from business, the wealthy and inheritances. Over the last five weeks, the NDP Leader logged more than 59,000 kilometres on his campaign plane, landing at close to 30 airports across Canada and visiting nearly 60 ridings from Victoria to St. John's, some several times. Mr. Layton drew respectable crowds at most campaign stops, ranging from 200 to more than 1,000 in some cases. Party officials and journalists who worked on the 2000 campaign said turnout for his visits was generally more than double the numbers that greeted former NDP leader Alexa McDonough in the previous race.
The 2006 election was marked by lingering concerns of Liberal corruption. The NDP had gained support but there were concerns that voters – disillusioned with the left – would start leaning toward Conservative leader Stephen Harper. Mr. Layton fought to stay relevant, saying Prime Minister Paul Martin had “no right to tell Canadians they have only two choices in this election.” The election ended with a slim Conservative minority, Mr. Martin’s resignation, and Mr. Layton’s strongest showing in decades. The success ebbed by 2008, when surging Conservative support found Mr. Layton making only marginal gains, despite thoughts early in the campaign that his party could become the Official Opposition or even win the election. Here is an article excerpt: Party fails to meet Layton's high standard; But big gains made in Northern Ontario Oct. 15, 2008 “Canadians have elected a minority parliament. No party has a mandate to implement an agenda without agreement from the other parties,” he told cheering supporters in Toronto last night after the results were known. “We're going to go into the next Parliament ready to work with other parties in the interest of Canadians and we're going to put forward our agenda.” Across Canada, the New Democrats were up by just one additional percentage point in the popular vote in an election in which intense dissatisfaction was expressed for the leaders of the other two major national parties. Mr. Layton said late last week that anything short of a victory would be unsatisfying. He started nearly every speech of the five-week election campaign, including the first one, by saying that he was applying for the job of prime minister. Even when reporters accused him of misleading Canadians when he implied that the New Democrats could pull off a victory, he would not stray from his core message. But the gains made by the party yesterday must feel like a win to some party members, even if Mr. Layton says he wanted more.
A historic year for Jack and the NDP
In the 2011 federal election, NDP leader Jack Layton experienced a surge in popularity that rocketed his party into the role of Official Opposition. Despite entering the 2011 campaign season with relatively weak poll numbers, support for the New Democrats began to grow following Layton's showing in the leaders debates. Despite having recently undergone a hip surgery that required him to rely on a cane throughout the campaign season, the NDP leader routinely responded to questions regarding his health with optimism and confidence. The national election on May 2, 2011 resulted the New Democrats winning 103 seats, more than double the party's previous high. Much of the party's success was due to a major increase in support in Quebec. On July 25, Mr. Layton and his wife Olivia Chow held a press conference announcing that he would be temporarily stepping down to undergo treatment for a new cancer. Here is an article excerpt: Layton stakes his biggest bet as Jack of Hearts John Allemang May 27, 2011 On the night after he led his party to the best election of its 50-year history, the new Leader of the Opposition walked into Toronto's Sony Centre to hear some soulful music. Jack Layton and his partner in life and politics, Olivia Chow, were hardly the most recognizable faces at the benefit for the Stephen Lewis Foundation: Alicia Keys, Rufus Wainwright, K'naan and Harry Belafonte were among the celebrities at the AIDS fundraiser, drawing more than 3,000 people. It should have been easy for a couple of downtown politicians to blend into the crowd. The crowd wouldn't let them. Mr. Layton, 60, was moving slowly, still showing the effects of his hip surgery. Maybe his measured pace drew attention to his presence. “People were clapping, and at first I wasn't sure what it was for,” Ms. Chow says. “And then I realized it was for Jack.” What had started as a typical evening of socially aware partying for the New Democratic Party leader suddenly turned into a celebration of the hopes his electoral achievement had raised: People cheered, shouted encouragement, even teared up as they rose in a standing ovation. “It was very special, actually,” Mr. Layton recalls. “There was a wonderfully warm, spontaneous reaction. … I'm sure not everybody there voted for us, but there was a good feeling about what happened in the campaign.”
Aug. 22, 2011
Jack Layton loses his battle to cancer at age 61
The man who's passion for his party helped rocket it to the position of Official Opposition died early on the morning of August 22, just over a month after taking a temporary leave of absence to fight a new form of cancer. A statement issued by his wife, Olivia Chow and his children said that Mr. Layton died "peacefully at his home." From Stephen Harper: “I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight,” Mr. Harper said. “To his wife Olivia, his family, and to his colleagues and friends, Laureen and I offer our heartfelt condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this most difficult time." From former prime minister Jean Chrétien: “I think that it’s a big, big loss for the NDP and for the House of Commons.” Here is an article excerpt: Jack Layton, dead at 61, never lost focus on the NDP's future Jane Taber and Bill Curry Aug. 22, 2011 The day before he died, Jack Layton was sitting up, his mind was sharp and he was talking politics and the future with his long-time chief of staff Anne McGrath and party president Brian Topp. The pair met with the NDP leader Saturday for four hours as a stream of family members came in and out of the house. Early Monday morning, Mr. Layton died, succumbing to cancer. He was 61. But it was her last conversation with her good friend and boss that Ms. McGrath recalled Monday. “We talked about the future,” she told The Globe. She said “Jack had tasked us” with presenting different scenarios as to how the party should proceed if he didn’t come back in the fall – as he had vowed he would – how that fall session would go and, in “the event that he was going to pass, what would we do.” They talked about a leadership convention – and it appears that is likely the route the party will follow. Mr. Layton also penned a letter to Canadians on Saturday in which he outlines his vision for the country. And in it he speaks to Canadians and Quebeckers, asking them to take on his fight, according to NDP sources. The letter, which runs two pages and bears his signature, was given to Ms. McGrath and distributed Monday. Mr. Layton had always emphasized with Ms. McGrath that the party must go on. Even though he was optimistic he could beat the cancer, he wanted to have plans in place, she said.