Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak a little personally about Jack. He was a person I came to know over many years through my long-time association with the New Democratic Party and my leadership of the provincial party in Ontario.
My first conversation with Jack was on the telephone asking him to support me in my bid for the leadership which, for my colleagues opposite, he declined to provide me at that particular moment. Perhaps he guessed something that even I was not aware of at the time.
In the course of the last few months, the last two months in particular, as a country we have gone through a political celebration in the midst of great sorrow and great loss. I am sure there have been parallels in time when this has occurred. We are told that when D'Arcy McGee was assassinated, only a few hundred yards from this spot, over 100,000 people attended his funeral service, lining the streets.
As Canadians, we can say that in the course of our history there have been moments when we have surpassed partisanship and have come together.
There are times in our lives when we must admit the partisan reality of our political lives. Political life is a decent life. It is a public life that has earned the respect of Canadians, even though not everyone will completely agree with the positions taken by a political leader like Mr. Layton.
Jack believed fiercely in the country and he wanted to take a positive and constructive attitude to achieving what he needed to achieve, but Jack was a very tough partisan. He was a very committed member of the New Democratic Party. He was also someone who, as the Prime Minister has said and as the Leader of the Opposition has said, because of his personality, because of what Laurier once described as the importance of having sunny ways, he managed to attract the support and the affection of a great many people who did not necessarily share his point of view.
Particularly the outpouring we saw in Toronto was a reflection of the fact that Mr. Layton started out his life and his career as a local politician. He was very proud of his work in the city of Toronto and he provided leadership that was of a unique nature. While there are political parties, more or less, at the city level, in order to get things done people have to work together. It is not a deeply partisan framework in which they work. They work by talking, by engaging, by trying to find compromise, and that is where Jack excelled. He loved to make a deal and to do a deal even when, as some of us discovered there was no deal to be done, he still wanted to try to get it done. I think we all respected that spirit.
When I think of the work he did on housing, and as premier I worked very closely with Jack on that issue, he really did provide leadership, not only for the city but for the province and then for the country. I think of the work that he did on AIDS. I think of his advocacy for the gay, lesbian and transgender community, which he continued to do right up to the end. I think of the courage he displayed on a number of issues where not everyone was with him at the time, but eventually more people came to see the merits of that position.
We have lost a colleague and a friend. The country has lost an important political leader, an important political presence, and my colleague from Trinity—Spadina has lost a husband and a partner. We offer her our warmest condolences. She has shown great courage and above all great natural dignity in the face of Jack's struggle and in the face of all the attention to which that has given rise. From this side of the House, and for some years Jack occupied seats not too far away from where we stand today, as an adversary and as a friend we shall miss him.
I cannot help but recall the famous words of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, when he said in his famous poem, “death shall have no dominion”. He was really describing in that poem, and I think this has been the experience of Canada over the last little while, that while Jack has passed away, the things he stood for, the values he had and the warmth, strength and quality of his personality will never die or disappear because the spirit and the soul with which we come into life will carry on, and I think all of us of different religious beliefs strongly believe that. That spirit carries on in our children. It carries on in the work that we all decide to do, whether we come at it from the same perspective or from the same philosophy. There are a great many Canadians who, over the last while, have thought more about politics, about public life and about what that public contribution is all about because of the life that Jack chose to live, the way in which he chose to live it and the way in which he chose to leave it.
I close with the words of Dylan Thomas:
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.