Jack Layton's body back in Toronto

Jack Layton's body arrives at Toronto City Hall, where the NDP leader will lie in repose before his state funeral on Saturday.

Jack Layton's body has arrived at Toronto City Hall, where the NDP leader will lie in repose before his state funeral on Saturday.

The motorcade transporting his flag-draped casket was driven down the highway from Ottawa on Thursday and was met at city hall by his wife, MP Olivia Chow, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.\

Several dozen members of the public were also gathered outside the building. The crowd applauded as the casket was carried inside, where Toronto police are providing a vigil guard.

Earlier in the day, the hearse left Parliament Hill where his body had been lying in state. It made a brief detour to city hall in Gatineau, Que., for a symbolic nod to his province of birth, before making the trip to Toronto where Layton had served for decades as an activist, city councillor and MP.

At Kingston, Ont., about 60 people lined an overpass over Highway 401 — part of which is named the Highway of Heroes — waiting patiently in the afternoon sun for a glimpse of the hearse.

A Jack Layton campaign sign from the last election hung over the guard rail. A Maple Leaf flag waved overhead. As the procession approached, people cheered and waved. Car horns sounded from vehicles heading in the opposite direction.

And in a flash, the cortege was past and gone.

At another overpass near Oshawa, about 10 people turned out as the motorcade went by. Two were holding an orange sign that read: "Jack you will be missed."

His body will lie in repose at city hall on Friday, with dignitaries and invited guests arriving at 8 a.m. The public can pay respects and sign a book of condolences from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Layton had a long relationship with Toronto. The Montreal native came to Toronto as a young man in the 1970s to earn his master's degree in political science at York University, later taking a teaching position at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, now Ryerson University.

He was first elected to office as a Toronto city alderman in November 1982, and won a seat in the first election for the newly minted Metropolitan Toronto Council in 1985. 

The casket of NDP leader Jack Layton arrives at Toronto City Hall on Thursday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

After an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1991 and losing a federal election campaign in 1993 in the north Toronto riding of Rosedale, he was re-elected to Toronto's city council in 1994, and again in 1997.

After winning the leadership of the federal NDP in 2003, he became MP for Toronto-Danforth in 2004, a position he held until his death. His wife represents the federal riding of Trinity-Spadina.

The city's affection for Layton has been clear since his death, with tributes and well-wishers leaving flowers and mementoes at Layton's constituency office, his home, and at Toronto City Hall, where a single chalk message scrawled on the concrete wall of a raised walkway became a large-scale memorial, with hundreds of messages written in chalk.

Funeral Saturday

A procession will take Layton's casket from Toronto City Hall to Roy Thomson Hall sometime after 11 a.m. Saturday for the state funeral.  The hearse will be escorted by Toronto police on horseback.

The funeral will start at 2 p.m. About 800 seats inside the hall will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Members of the public are being told to line up on King Street West outside Roy Thomson Hall. At 8 a.m. on Saturday, bracelets will be given to the first 600 people. Bracelet holders will then be able to return at noon to get their tickets.

Four large video screens will be set up in David Pecaut Square, to the west of Roy Thomson Hall, for overflow crowds.

CBC live coverage Saturday

CBC News has live coverage Saturday of the state funeral for Jack Layton.

CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge hosts a live special on CBC Television, CBC News Network and streaming on CBCNews.ca, beginning at 1 p.m. ET with the procession through the streets of Toronto from city hall to Roy Thomson Hall.

Alison Smith, Michael Enright and Chris Hall lead live coverage on CBC Radio One beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Coverage will be available through CBC News' mobile site and apps, and on-demand as well at CBCNews.ca.

A total of 1,700 seats in the hall are reserved for members of Layton's family, MPs, premiers and former NDP premiers, other politicians and invited guests.

Some of the guests expected to attend include:

  • Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.    
  • Interim Bloc Québécois leader Louis Plamondon.    
  • Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.    
  • Former Liberal leaders Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion.    
  • Former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe.    
  • Former prime minister Paul Martin.
  • Former prime minister Jean Chrétien.    
  • Former NDP leaders Alexa McDonough and Ed Broadbent.

Several people are expected to give eulogies, including Stephen Lewis, the former Ontario NDP leader famous for his activism on social justice issues, and Layton's children, Michael and Sarah.

Traffic disruptions

Road closures are planned in Toronto Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. in the area bounded by Bay Street to the east, Queen Street West to the north, Wellington Street to the south, and John Street to the west.

Toronto police are asking people to consider using the TTC if they plan to travel into the downtown core.

McDonough, Broadbent and Doer are among those expected to be pallbearers.

Lorraine Segato, of the group Parachute Club, will sing Rise Up;Quebec singer Martin Deschamps will perform his song C'est beau le monde; and former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page will sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Officials say the CN Tower in Toronto will be lit in orange from sundown Saturday until sunrise Sunday in honour of the late NDP leader, and Niagara Falls will make a similar tribute.   

Tony Baldinelli, of the Niagara Parks Commission, says many requests were made for the falls to be coloured orange for Layton, who died Monday of cancer.   

Baldinelli says the request was approved by the Niagara Falls Illumination Board. The falls will be illuminated in orange at various times on Saturday night.

With files from The Canadian Press