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- John Gilbert Layton
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LAYTON, The Hon. John Gilbert (Jack), P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. was a Canadian academic, activist, environmental consultant, author, politician, and athlete, as well as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.
John Gilbert (Jack) Layton was born in Montreal (Quebec) on July 18, 1950 to Robert and Doris (Steeves) Layton. In 1956 the Layton family moved to Hudson, Quebec, where Jack would grow up. Between 1964 and 1967 Jack thrived as he attended Hudson High School. He married his high school girlfriend, Sally Halford, in 1969. They had two children together, Mike and Sarah, before their divorce in 1983. In 1988 Jack married Olivia Chow.
Between 1968 and 1983 Jack undertook his post-secondary education. He earned his BA (Honours) in Political Science in 1970 from McGill University, his MA in Political Science from York University in 1971, and completed his PhD in 1983 from York University. In the early 1970's Jack worked on community organizing in Quebec for Front d'action politique (FRAP) and volunteered for Michael Goldrick during his campaign for Toronto City Council in 1972.
In 1974 Jack began his career as an academic and educator. Between 1974 and 1984 he taught government and city politics courses at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University). He also taught at York University and was an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto between 1978 and 1994.
Between 1981-1991 Jack sat on the City of Toronto Council. Between 1984-1988 he sat on the independent regional Toronto council, the Metropolitan Toronto Council. In 1990 he served as Deputy Mayor under Mayor Art Eggelton. He held this seat until 1991 after a failed mayoral bid against June Rowlands. Following the campaign Jack took a break from public office and founded two environmental consulting agencies: Jack Layton and Associates, and Green Catalyst Group. As well, in 1993-94 he was the CEO of the Conservation Strategies Consortium. In 1993 Jack unsuccessfully ran as the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the Toronto riding of Rosedale. After losing in Rosedale Jack was again elected to the regional Metropolitan Toronto Council and served between 1994-1997. In 1988, after the municipal amalgamation of the Toronto region Jack sat as a City of Toronto Councillor for Ward 30 - Toronto-Danforth - and served until 2003. In 2001 he successfully ran for presidency of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. During his time in Toronto municipal politics he served on or participated in a great number of committees and organizations. It would be impossible to name them all, however, a more detailed list is available in the long version of this description.
In 2003 he was elected as the NDP leader and was subsequently elected in 2004 as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Toronto-Danforth. He maintained his House of Commons seat and continued as leader until his death on August 22, 2011. Just prior to his death, during the 2011 federal election the Party achieved the most House of Commons seats in its history and subsequently formed Her Majesties Official Opposition.
It is impossible to trace all of the organizations to which Jack pledged his effort and/or support during his lifetime. Overall, throughout his career Layton put consistent concern and effort into a variety of social and political issues. He was constantly involved in a vast number of committees, rallies, auctions etc. in support of a plethora of interests and groups. However, within these there were certain core issues that defined his life, teaching, and politics and which he would carry forward from one career position to the next. A modest list of the core issues and concerns he held and worked on over his academic and political career can be found in the long version of this description. Layton was also a prolific author, between 1979 and 2010 he published a number of sole and co-authored books and articles.
Layton's health began to decline during the later time of his tenure as NDP leader. In February of 2010 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, from which he later recovered. In March of 2011 he underwent hip surgery at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital for a fracture. In July of 2011 he announced that he was taking a temporary leave of absence to deal with a newly diagnosed undisclosed form of cancer. From this new cancer he died on August 22, 2011 at the age of 61.
The public reaction to Layton's death was unprecedented. On Parliament Hill Layton laid In State from August 24th until August 26th when he was then taken to Lie in Repose at Toronto City Hall. On August 27th Layton was transported to Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto where a State Funeral was held that had been granted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. An outpouring of public and official grief followed Layton's death.
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