What's your reaction to Jack Layton stepping aside from the NDP leadership this summer?
On Cross Country Checkup: the NDP without Jack
Jack Layton is undergoing treatment for cancer and will step aside from politics for the summer, leaving the NDP with an interim leader.
Just how will Canada's official opposition party fare without Jack?
With guest host Suhana Meharchand
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
It came as a huge surprise to MPs and everyone else on Monday when Jack Layton announced he is stepping aside from the NDP leadership to undergo treatment for a second bout of cancer.
Every political party needs a strong leader. Someone to put a human face on the ideology and strategy that party embodies. Someone to forge a vision that others can rally behind. Someone to convey the political message and make it appealing and accessible.
Few would deny Jack Layton has been the appealing and accessible face of the NDP. A January Angus Reid poll this year gave him a 94 per cent approval rating by Canadians when it came to leadership qualities such as honesty, compassion and "being down to earth." (This was against Stephen Harper at 69 per cent and Gilles Duceppe at 50 per cent.)
Many call Layton the most successful leader the NDP has ever had. In the election this spring he led his party from 39 MPs up to 103 -- catapulting the NDP to official opposition party status for the first time in its 50-year history.
Layton says he has every intention of being back in the political saddle just as soon as he can -- hopefully in time for Parliament's fall session which begins September 19th. And we all wish him well in that. Jack Layton has a personal connection to Cross Country Checkup. Several times when we've requested a phone interview he would jump on his bike and cycle over to the Broadcasting Centre to have the conversation face to face in the studio instead of on the phone.
But today we want to look at what his hopefully temporary absence from the political stage will mean for politics in this country.
For the summer at least, the NDP is under the interim leadership of Nycole Turmel -- a rookie MP from Quebec and former national party caucus chair. Of course Nycole Turmel is one of many rookie MPs in the new House of Commons. Over half of the NDP caucus is made up of first time MPs from Quebec.
What does it mean for Quebec now "le bon Jack" is gone... at least for the summer?
How secure is support for the NDP in a province where until this year's election at least, sympathy for the separatist Bloc Québécois ran high. What does it mean for the Official Opposition party as a whole? Is the NDP bigger than its leader? What should its priorities be now? Will the NDP be ready to take on its role of holding the government to account when Parliament resumes in September?
If Mr. Layton is away beyond September, then what will that mean for the future of the NDP in your view? And what does all of this mean for the other parties? We want to hear your views. What Is your reaction to Jack Layton stepping aside as leader of the NDP? And what does this mean for the Canadian political scene?
I'm Suhana Meharchand on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- Rosemary Barton
CBC National reporter on Parliament Hill, and hosting Power and Politics on CBC News Network
- André Pratte
Chief editorial writer, La Presse
- Janice MacKinnon
Former Finance Minister of Saskatchewan under NDP Premier Roy Romanow. Now professor of history and public policy at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
- L. Ian MacDonald
Editor of Policy Options
- Anthony Sayers
Professor of Political Science at University of Calgary
Globe and Mail
- Public officials owe full health disclosure
- NDP throws support to Layton's pick for interim leader
- Jack Layton's exit leaves NDP without a face in Quebec
- Layton's resolve will be great, his battle difficult
- Can the NDP survive Jack Layton's health crisis?
Winnipeg Free Post
I think this is a a strong opportunity for the NDP to pull together as a party, not just a party having a terrific leader. This can put the Conservatives on notice - a wide variety of people in Canada spoke in the last election and elected the NDP. The NDP is far bigger than its mighty excellent leader.
When Jack Layton announced his medical leave, my neighbour said that he wondered what would happen if a Quebecois interim leader was chosen and immediately without a single beat I replied that in the NDP cultural animosity is not part of the picture. I think I was right. I hope I was right.
Take care of yourself, dear Jack.
The NDP has an opportunity for its new, young members to build on Jack Layton's leadership and continue to create a new vision for Canada that includes such things as social justice, building a national service program for young people, and securing sustainability for our social safety net being battled by the corporate agenda.
While doing a good job as an opposition, the NDP must at the same time plan for the next election. The Conservatives have a good chance of doing themselves in as a majority government and the NDP must build on a young, energetic brand that will do them well in the next election and lead this great country, including Quebec, into the future.
I have been an NDP member for quite a while and the leader is not important to me. As a democratic socialist I vote for the party.
Burnaby, British Columbia
I am very much saddened by Jack Layton's health situation. I hope he will recover and return to the office. But people who are speculating about his charisma, and who else has it, probably forget that there is Garry Doer in Washington. He was very much beloved in Manitoba, and I am sure the rest of the Canadians would take liking to him.
Have we succumbed to the belief that our politics is all about the leader, rather than the political ideology of the party in question? In the past federal election, Mr. Harper and his party vilified the Liberal leader, all while carefully sidestepping the question of the political ideology he and his party was promoting. Many Canadians were deeply disturbed by this approach, as it has no place in our Canadian political landscape and, in my view, chose an ideology that was deeply opposed to that presented by the Harper Conservatives.
Layton, as leader of the NDP, certainly is a charismatic person. However, his capacity to present an alternative image of a caring, socially conscious Canada appealed to a great number of Canadians and certainly should not be forgotten in this discussion. Leaders may come and go (and I do hope that Layton has a speedy recovery and returns), but it's the larger question of ideology that should be an integral part of your discussion.
Jack Layton is a formidable leader as we all know and appreciate. But Ms Turmel is NOT a rookie She may be a first-time MP, but she is very well experienced on the Hill and with federal politics, has been intimately engaged with the NDP for over 20 years and is an excellent manager. Just what the party needs for now, until Jack Layton and the gods decide upon his future as leader of the NDP.
There are a lot of experienced people in the NDP, as MPs, MLAs and otherwise. Yes, Jack Layton is an amazing leader and person. But, thanks to the media, only the leader is looked at, not the policies and consistencies of a party. The party is strong, and I believe that the party will not fold if by some tragic stroke Jack Layton is unable to return.
I am from Montreal and I first met Jack Layton there during his leadership campaign in 2003 and helped him out. From the day he started his campaign, he was dismissed by many in the media and other parties as a "champagne socialist" or an "energizer bunny" and that the country would never warm to a leader form Toronto. The Conservatives topped it off a few years later when their partisans often called him "Taliban Jack". Jack has proven himself beyond any standard opponents set for him, and the country is the better for it. But Jack is also human, not a perfect man nor a perfect leader. If he isn't able to return as leader, it won't be an easy transition, but the NDP will survive and continue to grow. The party he has built has a lot more strength and talented MPs and staff than it had when he started as leader.
If Jack Layton decides not to come back, I would love to see Elizabeth May cross over and take a run for the NDP Leadership. It would give her a larger platform, she could take the party a little further to the left and actually give the voters something different than the boring center to vote for!
If Jack Layton does not come back as NDP leader it will be a big loss for Canada, not just the NDP. I say that as a staunch conservative whose views are diametrically opposed to his.
Jack focused on making parliament work, and rising above partisanship (mostly), thereby providing a substantive alternative viewpoint in Canada's best interest. Without Jack, the NDP and the Liberals will revert to partisan bleating that does not advance Canada's benefit. A majority Conservative government with a Jack Layton-led NDP opposition is a refreshing prospect. Get well Jack. Canada needs you.
The NDP's unprecedented success in Quebec was due to a perfect storm of having a very strong leader, a weak Liberal leader, and an unlikable Conservative leader. If the NDP under the charismatic Jack Layton can prove to Quebecers that their interests and values can be furthered by a national party it can change politics in Canada for decades to come.
The NDP will continue as a strong voice in federal politics without Jack but this historic opportunity in Quebec would be unlikely to survive.
I am only 13, and ever since I got into politics, I have been a diehard NDP. In my opinion if Mr.Layton were not to return as NDP leader in the fall, it will be a great loss for all of Canadian politics. I feel that Jack Layton is the NDP. Although, people like me are drawn to the NDP due to what they stand for, I feel that Jack Layton is what draws so many young people to this party. If Jack Layton does not come back, I feel the NDP needs to find a leader who speaks for young people, as well as Mr.Layton did, we are the future. I had a chance to meet Mr.Layton during his campaign, and he was very nice to the huge crowd that showed up to see him speak. I am willing to give the new interm leader a chance, and I hope she does well. Get well soon, Mr Layton.