Canada column for Sunday, July 31/11
THE CANADIAN REPORT
By Jim Fox
A former Quebec labor leader has taken over temporarily from the ailing Jack Layton who propelled his socialist New Democratic Party to become the opposition in the House of Commons.
A visibly weakened Layton, 61, told a news conference he selected rookie politician Nycole Turmel, 68, to become interim leader as he battles a recurrence of cancer.
It was Layton’s charisma that was credited with giving the New Democrats resounding success in the May federal election, bumping the Liberals out of the opposition role.
Layton said he was taking leave of absence to battle an unspecified form of cancer after earlier undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and hip surgery.
In a raspy voice, Layton said he is “going to focus on treatment and recovery,” but planned to return when Parliament resumes on Sept. 19.
The appointment of Turmel, who previously headed the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was confirmed by the party executive.
“Jack Layton has spent eight years building this New Democrat movement for a better Canada, eight years building a team that is ready to tackle any circumstance with hope and optimism,” she said.