Jack Layton's work will go on, NDP vows

Members of the NDP say they will take time to mourn the loss of their leader and then carry on with the work started by Jack Layton.

Members of the NDP say they will take time to mourn the loss of their leader and then carry on with the work started by Jack Layton.

NDP MPs and party staff were struck with grief on Monday following Layton's death  but still talked about moving forward. 

"There are going to be some tears today and we're going to take some appropriate days to remember Jack and to remember what he gave us," the NDP's president Brian Topp said. "And then we are going to do what I know he wanted us to do, which is continue his work." 

Topp met with Layton on Saturday at his home in Toronto, along with the NDP leader's chief of staff, Anne McGrath and Layton's wife and fellow NDP MP, Olivia Chow. Layton and his team were still hopeful he would overcome his cancer, but it was clear he was very ill, according to Topp, and they discussed scenarios for the party's future should he lose the battle.

Layton, who died at home early Monday after a battle with cancer, will be given a state funeral in Toronto on Saturday.

McGrath said in her final conversations with Layton he spoke about how far they had come and he repeatedly told her he wanted her "to keep going."

Layton urged staff to carry on

The NDP leader also emphasized the same message with Karl Bélanger, his senior press secretary. He said Tuesday that he and Layton talked about everything the party had accomplished in their years working together.

"He was urging me not to give up, to keep working at it and that's basically the same message he sent to Canadians through that letter yesterday," said Bélanger.

He said the NDP will celebrate Layton's achievements and build upon his work. "We have the best team of New Democrats ever sent to Ottawa and the goal remains the same: it is to replace the Conservatives as the government and create the first NDP government in Ottawa," he said.

Layton led the party to a historic high on May 2 when the NDP won 103 seats and Layton won the title of Official Opposition Leader. Twelve weeks later, he announced he was taking time off from the job he had worked so hard and long to get because of a new cancer diagnosis. 

Quebec MP Nycole Turmel was appointed by the party to fill in for Layton, who wanted to be back at work in time for Parliament's fall session.

Turmel was handpicked by Layton as his choice to step into his shoes, and in a letter to Canadians Layton said he wanted her to continue as his replacement until a permanent successor is elected.

Layton wrote that a new leader should be chosen "as early as possible" in 2012, "so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election."

Layton's last letter

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world," Jack Layton writes just days before his death. Read more

The party's next steps, short-term and long-term, will likely be discussed in further detail by the entire caucus at their next meeting. The NDP's summer policy meeting in Quebec City is scheduled to take place Sept. 13-14, but the party is discussing whether to change the date of the gathering.

Parliament's fall session begins the following week and Turmel will have the task of facing off against Prime Minister Stephen Harper in question period and handling the other duties of Official Opposition leader.

The party, in the meantime, will make preparations for a leadership convention and those interested in the job will begin organizing campaigns. The last time the NDP had a leadership convention was when Layton was elected leader in 2003.

While Layton was ill, NDP MPs and party staff were reluctant to entertain the possibility that a permanent replacement would need to be chosen or to speculate on what would happen to the party should Layton not return to work. He was viewed by many as the brand of the NDP.

"No one is going to replace Jack Layton," said Topp. "What we can do is continue his work."

Libby Davies, one of the NDP's deputy leaders along with Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, said one of Layton's lasting legacies is that he has left a strong team behind him and they are committed to building on the foundation built by Layton.

"We have to keep on with the work that Jack Layton laid out for us and I know that's what every single member of our caucus will do," the British Columbia MP said.