“I was prepared for his death, but not this morning,” said Scott Fast, who was stunned by the passing of federal New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton early Monday.
Fast said there were unverified rumours in the party that Layton’s returning cancer was terminal, but he said the NDP was rocked by the sudden passing.
Fast ran for the NDP both federally and provincially, and the UFV political science professor was impressed by Layton when he met him in person.
He pointed out that even as Layton was facing his final days, he took the time to dictate a letter to cancer victims urging them to not give up hope. Fast called the empathy that Layton showed for people “very authentic.”
Although he could be idealistic about such concepts as distribution of wealth, Fast was impressed by Layton’s “on-the-ground orientation” to issues.
“He understood that most voters weren’t looking to support this ideology or that ideology. They are interested in issues that impact them, like can they get health care, or can they afford to put their kid through university,,,” said Fast. “That’s one of the reasons he came across as different.”
He said Layton led the NDP to “unimaginable success” in gaining opposition status.
“There’s no question the force of his personality was a very important part of the NDP in the last election.”