Canada

Layton stands by homeless deaths remarks

Jack Layton stands by controversial remarks he made last week that Paul Martin was responsible for the deaths of some homeless people

NDP Leader Jack Layton stands by controversial remarks he made last week that Liberal Leader Paul Martin was responsible for the deaths of some homeless people in Canada.

But Layton sought to qualify the comments, which drew criticism even from some of his own party members, by saying that politicians at all levels –and Canadians in general – shared some of the blame.

"Canada as a whole has not responded to the affordable housing crisis," Layton told a CBC forum in Vancouver on Wednesday night.

He insisted, however, that Martin, as minister of finance, made "choices to cut taxes" and "as a consequence, some homeless ended up on the street and dying."

But he backed away from linking Martin directly to the cancellation of affordable housing programs, as he did in last week's remarks.

The Liberal party last week responded by accusing Layton of cheapening the debate. Martin said he would not engage in an "ad hominem personal attack."

"I know the remark jarred on some, but you know what jars on me—in a country as rich as this, that we have people living in the street," Layton said to applause from the Vancouver audience.

Layton added he too – as a former Toronto city councillor – was responsible for not doing enough to help the homeless.

This, he said became clear to him, when a homeless man froze to death one block from the Toronto house he shares with his wife Olivia Chow, who is also running in the federal election for the NDP.