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The Globe and Mail

Layton’s admirers paint the town orange

Olivia Chow, wife of the late Jack Layton, writes a message of love with chalk on a wall outside Toronto City Hall on the anniversary of Layton's death Aug 22, 2012. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Moe Doiron

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Toronto to mark the first anniversary of Jack Layton's death, one of many events taking place across the country.

Mr. Layton's death from cancer at age 61, three months after he led the New Democrats to Official Opposition status for the first time in its history, led to an outpouring of grief from Canadians.

On Wednesday, chalk messages in memory of "Dear Jack" were scrawled on the walls and ground at Nathan Phillips Square, outside Toronto's City Hall, where Mr. Layton had once served as a city councillor. The scene was reminiscent, though on a smaller scale, of the massive response after Mr. Layton died.

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His wife, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, added to the growing chalk tribute that her husband was "alive in our hearts." Her husband would have "loved" the display, Ms. Chow said, but would have insisted that people "stop mourning and go make a difference."

"Go party tonight, but work together to create a better Toronto, a better country, because it is possible," she said on Wednesday.

Several admirers wore white NDP shirts with the words "I am the Layton legacy" in orange.

"He is for my generation what [Pierre] Trudeau was for the previous one," said Jessica Pym, 30, at the memorial concert. "His legacy is politics that we can believe in and I honestly believe we can have a NDP prime minister."

That's why she said she signed up to become a member of the NDP on Aug. 22, the day Mr. Layton died. "Just because he died doesn't mean his vision also died," Ms. Pym said.

In Ottawa, tributes to Layton took on an unapologetically partisan tone. His political causes were front and centre for the small crowd at Parliament Hill.

"I miss him dearly, but he would be telling us all right now to roll up those sleeves, get to work and get moving with making a difference," Ottawa MP Paul Dewar said to the gathered.

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Mr. Dewar then listed some NDP priorities – a "little bit of homework," he called it – starting with restoring full health-care coverage to refugee claimants. "It's a shame that the Conservatives have cut it," he said. "The way to commemorate Jack is to get on with the work."

In Toronto, Mr. Layton's ashes were interred at the Necropolis Cemetery in a private ceremony with friends and family earlier Wednesday.

At a memorial concert, Ms. Chow thanked supporters "for making it possible to get through this very tough year."

The ceremony in Toronto ended with the crowd clapping and singing along to lyrics of Rise Up with Lorraine Segato of the Canadian band Parachute Club. Ms. Segato had performed the same song live at Mr. Layton's funeral last year.

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