Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder says her party remains strong and united despite health concerns for its leader Jack Layton.
Layton announced earlier this week he was stepping aside from politics temporarily to fight a second bought with cancer, expecting, he said, to once again take the helm in September. Layton looked frail and sounded hoarse at his press conference, but remained energetic and optimistic throughout.
The NDP caucus backed Layton’s selection of Quebec MP Nycole Turmel as interim leader.
“Our caucus met this week and it was pretty emotional. Jack joined us by telephone from Toronto and was there for the whole meeting,” said Crowder. “It’s pretty clear we’re all onside with continuing with Jack’s work. When Jack’s not talking about himself, he’s talking about the need to continue the work on pensions, housing and job.
“I mean, that’s him. He’s always put the work of politics front and centre and ahead of everything else and he continued to do that. He just blows me away.”
Crowder said she told Layton he inspires her with his “courage and his optimism.”
She added her role as Opposition critic for human resources and skills development won’t change, but that NDP veterans and House of Common rookies will have to “step up that much more” to ensure the party maintains its forward progress.
The NDP earned 103 seats in the last federal election, its most successful to date and its first opportunity to serve as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons.
Crowder said a mentoring system to develop rookie MPs has been in place since the election and that many of the new faces are already making a difference.
“This is a pretty incredible group of rookies,” said Crowder. “Many of them come from leadership positions already in their own communities ... so they already had these strengths and skills and talents and the message I’ve heard is that they understand what it is to work as a team and that’s one of the things that Jack has always said.”
Layton last visited Nanaimo on Oct. 13, 2010 to talk about issues such as reducing taxes on home heating costs and the HST. Layton first had his hair trimmed at Rich 1 Beauty Salon before going to the Grand Hotel for a meet-and-greet.
On the NDP website, Layton vows to beat cancer so he can return in September to continue his fight for Canadian families.
“We’re sending our good wishes to Jack and wishing hem a speedy recovery and offering support for he and his family,” said Crowder.