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Jack Layton Memory Looms Over Toronto Labour Day Parade

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TORONTO - The memory of Jack Layton loomed large at Toronto's Labour Day parade Monday, with his name or picture on banners, placards, orange T-shirts and orange scarves.

Thousands of people, many wearing union T-shirts and others pushing strollers, some on bicycles, went on the move from downtown to the CNE in the parade dedicated to the late NDP leader who died after a second battle with cancer last month.

Toronto city councillor Mike Layton, his sister Sarah, interim federal Leader Nycole Turmel and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath led off the procession that featured members of various unions marching, bagpipes, drums and vehicles with balloons.

They held an orange banner featuring a photograph of a smiling Jack Layton that read "Labour Day march for Jack."

Mike Layton said his father would have enjoyed the parade and all the orange people were wearing.

"I know he always enjoyed a good parade and a good showing of solidarity with the workers of our city," he said as he walked along the route.

A yellow banner was emblazened with the words "Olivia We're With You." The Parachute Club song "Rise Up" that Lorraine Segato sang at Layton's state funeral in Toronto rose into the air alongside union members singing "solidarity forever" as they wound their way through the streets.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the parade, the first since Layton's death, was a chance to say thank you "in a large and vocal way" to Layton for his contribution to society.

"Jack worked very hard for everyday working people, not only to get justice in terms of workplace issues, but to really make a difference for everyday families."

While the parade was an opportunity to reflect on Layton's contribution, Horwath also called it a passing of the torch. "I think that today is a way of us saying: 'You know, let's stay united and let's make sure that we actually fight for and work towards the kind of vision that Jack set out.'"

She'll miss being able to call Layton up for advice during the Ontario election campaign, she said.

But his legacy, which includes the wave of orange that swept Quebec and moved the federal NDP into the official Opposition in the May 2 election, will also affect the Ontario election campaign, she predicted.

"People are feeling like they want to see some change in Ontario and I think that they learned that if they vote for the kind of change they want, they can make big differences," said Horwath.

"So this campaign will be about what kind of change do people want."