Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the late leader of the official opposition. I do so as Prime Minister, as leader of my party and as a member of the House, in memory of our friend and colleague, the hon. Jack Layton.
One of the pleasures of serving in this place is the friendships that develop and sometimes the surprise of friendships that grow between opponents, the affections that develop in spite of our strongest partisan instincts. In the case of Jack Layton, I believe that all of us developed this affection inexorably. His passion, perseverance and ability to be at once tough and cheerful would eventually win over even those who most strongly disagreed with him.
The affection and respect we had for him were rooted in his ability to mobilize others and unite them around a single cause. It was that part of his personality that made him a true leader. And the courage, dignity and optimism we witnessed during his battle with cancer only served to increase our fondness and respect. Those feelings grow even stronger when we consider the rigours of an election campaign—which I know all too well—and when we think about what he accomplished during the 2011 election.
I cannot think of another leader, at least not in our time, whose campaign was described as gallant. However, Jack's campaign inspired and merited that description. So too did his approach to his high parliamentary office. His commitment as leader of the other side to pursue more civil discourse in the House and to seek a constructive approach to opposition won well-deserved praise from all Canadians.
Of course it did not detract in any way from his ability to forcefully advocate a different position from that of the government. Hon. members will recall such a great parliamentary battle at the end of the spring session. As I have said before, I remember at one point near the end crossing to sit with Jack in the midst of it to discuss a few things, some political, some personal. Really, that was not very long ago. Now, when I look across the floor, it is hard to believe he is not still there.
However, I will always remember that conversation because, notwithstanding the personal challenges in front of Jack and regardless of the personal combat going on between us, as always, he was still full of optimism and goodwill.
His admirable personality made him a shining example. The civility he brought to debate as Leader of the Opposition and his sincere commitment to proposing constructive solutions set the bar high for us here in the House in terms of the work we do for Canadians.
It is well known that Jack and I did not always agree. In fact, it might be said that we did not often agree. However, he loved this country and devoted himself to the well-being of its people. In this, we were united, as indeed are so many men and women of different and contradictory political persuasions. In the heat of our debates we too often forget that people of goodwill share the deepest motivations and the highest aspirations. We differ only on how we believe we should act on these in order to address the practical problems that lie before us.
Our democracy and our work in the House exist so that we can take stock of all potential solutions and decide which path to take. Through his election victory, Jack Layton contributed to the renewal and strengthening of Canada's political life.
I conclude my remarks by also offering, for myself and on behalf of my colleagues, a special word of encouragement for the hon. member who was Jack's partner in life as well as in politics. She, too, has won our affection and our respect. In recent weeks she, too, has displayed the courage and dignity which we can only hope would emerge in us were we to suffer such a loss.
To her, the family and Jack's caucus colleagues, we offer our deepest sympathies and we, along with them, celebrate a truly extraordinary life.