The Moment: the astounding emotional outpouring following Jack Layton’s death
Saturday, August 27, 2 p.m. When Jack Layton announced in July that he intended to return from cancer treatment in time for the next session of Parliament, we believed him—or at least, we willed ourselves to—even though his sunken cheeks and withered frame suggested otherwise. So news of his death, just 28 days later, came as a shock, which partly explains the flood of public mourning that followed. Supporters clutched flowers, waved flags and, in one remarkable case, released 61 doves, one for each year of his life. Nathan Phillips Square was covered in chalk messages of hope and condolence that three rainstorms couldn’t wash away, because the writers kept coming back. Teary-eyed dignitaries and 600 members of the public crammed into the funeral service at Roy Thomson Hall, while thousands more watched the live feed outside and in living rooms across the city. It was an astounding emotional outpouring for a man who had never been mayor, premier or prime minister. But Layton was something much rarer in politics. He was an idealist, an agitator and a straight talker—in other words, the perfect person to lead the Opposition. It was a role he played far too briefly.