Singh pitches changing Toronto riding name to honour 'happy warrior' Jack Layton

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will seek to rename the Toronto riding of Toronto-Danforth to honour the legacy of Jack Layton, the former NDP leader who died of cancer 10 years ago.

Riding should become Danforth–Layton, says NDP leader on 10th anniversary of Layton's death.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, at the Jack Layton Monument in Toronto, responds to a question during an August press conference marking the 60th anniversary of the NDP. (The Canadian Press/Tijana Martin)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party will seek to rename a Toronto riding to honour the legacy of Jack Layton, the former NDP leader who died of cancer 10 years ago Sunday.

Singh made the announcement Sunday at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, where he was joined by Mike Layton, a Toronto city councillor and the son of the late NDP leader. 

Before speaking to reporters, Singh scribbled a message in chalk on a wall filled with tributes to Layton on the anniversary of his passing. "We are going to carry the torch for you," Singh wrote.

New Democrats will introduce a bill after the election to push Elections Canada to rename the riding of Toronto–Danforth to Danforth–Layton, the NDP leader said.

Watch: NDP leader suggests renaming riding after former leader Jack Layton

NDP leader suggests renaming riding after former leader Jack Layton during the campaign

2 years ago
Duration 1:22
Featured VideoJagmeet Singh spoke with reporters during a stop at Toronto's city hall on Sunday.

Layton represented the riding in the east end of Canada's biggest city from 2004 until his death in 2011.

Although the NDP won a byelection to fill the seat in 2012, it has been held by the Liberals since 2015.

Singh said that, as leader of the movement Layton was such a big part of, he often gets messages from Canadians who say Layton inspired them to believe better was possible.

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"I saw him as a happy warrior. I saw him as someone who gave his whole heart because he believed in people," Singh said. "He believed in fighting for them."

Singh said Layton helped him overcome cynicism about politics when he was first considering entering public life. Singh was an unsuccessful federal candidate in the 2011 federal election that saw New Democrats vault to the status of Official Opposition, thanks in large part to the "Orange Wave" in Quebec.

"I didn't really believe that politicians could make a difference. And my friends pointed to Jack and said, 'Well, what about Jack?'" Singh said.

The NDP leader denied that the proposal is about trying to sway voters in Toronto–Danforth to cast ballots for his party. 

The riding was won by Liberal Julie Dabrusin in 2015, who is running again. The NDP candidate in the riding is Clare Hacksel, executive director of the Choice in Health Clinic. All 25 seats in Toronto are currently held by the Liberals.

Singh said the idea is about tapping into a tradition of honouring those who have contributed greatly to Canada.

"Here in Toronto, people know the legacy of Jack Layton, how he touched the lives of so many people, how he fought so hard to make people's lives better," he said. 

"And it seems very fitting to push for the renaming of a riding that he represented in honour of everything that he's done."

'Jack and Jagmeet have a lot in common,' Mike Layton says 

Mike Layton called the idea a "touching gesture" and said he did not feel it was politicizing the anniversary of his father's death.

He also expressed optimism that Singh will lead the NDP back to heights they have not seen for a decade as Canadians get to know him more and more. 

"I think Jack and Jagmeet have a lot in common, and one of those things is they lead with their heart," Layton said.

The NDP is advancing ideas that will help the most vulnerable, who don't feel like they have representation in government right now, he said.

"It was very similar to what Jack was bringing forward, saying we need to have responsible policies that work for people, that help people, but we also need policies that will pay for that," Mike Layton said, touting the NDP's call for a wealth tax.

Dabrusin had little to say about the NDP proposal, telling CBC News in an emailed statement that she is focused on the people of Toronto–Danforth.

"I will continue working hard every day to deliver on the issues that matter to our community, like fighting climate change, access to affordable childcare, and reconciliation," she said.

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