Nova Scotia

Maritimers bid farewell to Jack Layton

People across the Maritimes remembered the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton Saturday afternoon.

People across the Maritimes remembered the late federal NDP leader Jack Layton Saturday afternoon.

Gatherings were held in Fredericton, Halifax, Wolfville and Sydney where people shared stories of their encounters with the NDP leader on his many visits to region.

Those who gathered to watch Layton's funeral at a Halifax West High School were greeted with a soundtrack of the leader's favourite songs.

Many of the 150 people who came were NDP supporters and had met Layton over the years. Their stories shared a theme of the easy way he connected with people, his enthusiasm and his ability to inspire.

Gregor Ash, who ran in Halifax West for the NDP in the last election, spoke about how he and Layton connected after his own prostate cancer diagnosis.

"He told me not to worry, that this is something that I would beat and that he was counting on me to run again the next election ... both of which I intend on doing."

Cassandra Birch first met Layton as a young New Democrat.

"I think people involved in any cause there's always this tension between the optimists and the pragmatists — people who are idealistic and people who want to get things done," said Birch. "I think Jack was the ultimate embodiment of both and showed that there doesn't have to be a tension between them, that those two things can be closer together than we think."

Nova Scotia NDP MLA Howard Epstein told the audience that the spontaneous outpouring of national mourning following Layton's death is evidence Canadians are yearning for decent leaders who inspire hope.

Former federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter acted as honourary pallbearers at Saturday's service, two of 16 honourary pallbearers.

"I received a request through Mr. Layton's family. It's really in an odd sense an honour I guess," Dexter said Friday. "I was overwhelmed to be asked. Jack was a great friend of mine. I had a long history with him and of course I agreed to do it."