Jack Layton Tribute: NDP Convention Honours Former Leader

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Dec 31, 1969 | Source: Keek.com

The NDP has honoured late leader Jack Layton at the party's convention in Toronto.
The NDP has honoured late leader Jack Layton at the party's convention in Toronto.

TORONTO -- The widow of Jack Layton implored New Democrats on Friday to continue to grow his work and reap the harvest as the NDP paid tribute to the man who led it to the gates of Canada's electoral promised land.

With tens of thousands of card-carrying party members poised to choose Layton's successor on Saturday, Olivia Chow told the leadership convention "we have come through a winter of challenge and change together and now it is spring.''

"It is springtime for the New Democrats!'' said Chow, to applause and cheers.

LIVE BLOG: UPDATES FROM THE CONVENTION FLOOR

Chow's speech followed a sometimes moving, sometimes funny 60-minute tribute ceremony at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, played before a backdrop of scrawled sidewalk chalk messages on video screens taken from Layton's August 2011 memorial.

Throughout, a near-capacity crowd of several thousand clapping delegates frequently rose to their feet in applause, most of them clad in white T-shirts bearing the slogan, "I am the Layton legacy.''

Convention Coverage, HuffPost Style: The Huffington Post Canada brings you comprehensive coverage of the NDP leadership convention in Toronto, with photos, behind-the-scenes video, opinion and reporting from the convention floor.

Follow us at @HuffPostCanada, on our Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj's Facebook Page, on our NDP leadership site, and on our politics page and our front page. Friday, we cover candidate speeches and a tribute to Jack Layton. Saturday morning, we follow the rounds of voting that will end with the new leader.

The rousing message of the night: keep looking forward and avoid the trap of stalling in misty memories of Layton, who died of cancer at age 61 last August -- less than four months after a landmark federal election gave the NDP 103 seats and official Opposition status for the first time ever.

In the same week that a byelection victory allowed the NDP to reclaim Layton's vacant downtown Toronto seat, the party's leadership convention used his legacy to foretell a bright NDP future.

Nonetheless, Layton's spirit has haunted the seven-month leadership race, his name invoked endlessly by the large field of would-be successors.

Those invocations carried right on to the convention floor earlier Friday afternoon as the remaining seven candidates made their last pitches to voters. Tens of thousands of voting NDP party members will elect a new leader Saturday.

Nathan Cullen, the first of the seven to address the convention floor Friday, opened his speech by stating the convention subtext -- that vying for the party leadership was not in the playbook last May 2.

"This wasn't my plan,'' Cullen began.

Thomas Mulcair, the former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and acknowledged front-runner, said the convention is "about building on what Jack has already accomplished and moving forward from there.''

Niki Ashton, the youngest leadership hopeful, peppered her speech with Layton references by telling the receptive crowd that he prepared the party for achieving power in the next federal election.

"Friends, we may have lost Jack, but we must not lose our way,'' implored yet another leadership hopeful, Paul Dewar.

The evening tribute was more upbeat, and less cautionary.

For the duration, a chalk artist working at the back of the stage scratched out a picture-perfect portrait of the late NDP leader, his work projected around the cavernous hall on LED screens as a nod to the outpouring of public sidewalk chalk tributes that Canadians scrawled last August during days of mourning.

Two former prime ministers -- needless to say, neither of them New Democrats -- spoke to the convention delegates by video.

Jean Chretien called Layton a "professional politician,'' then hastened to add that his life of public service was a tribute to that professionalism. Brian Mulroney called him "an entertaining, charming, interesting guy'' and said the NDP's success in Quebec was "not an accident.''

It was announced that a park in Hudson, Que., Layton's home town, will be named after him, and the party confirmed reports that its downtown Ottawa headquarters will be formally renamed the Jack Layton Building.

Environmentalist David Suzuki and former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams spoke by video; Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bill Blaikie -- the venerable former Manitoba MP who Layton defeated for the party leadership in 2003 -- were among those who gave live tributes.

"Teamwork was something Jack was very good at,'' Blaikie said, a pointed message heading into a weekend leadership decision with party fissures clearly showing.

Atleo credited the "energy and optimism of this night'' and told the crowd that "Jack's indomitable spirit has been magnified and multiplied.'' And he took a gentle poke at the bitter partisanship that is the temper of the times, noting the native tradition of storytelling, listening and an underlying first principle for interaction: "to be open and friendly, and especially to show love.''

The hour-long tribute didn't skip the comedic, with video clips from Layton's many self-mocking TV appearances on shows such as "This Hour has 22 Minutes,'' "The Rick Mercer Report'' and "Infoman.'' Jean-Rene Dufort, the frontman for the French-language "Infoman,'' issued a challenge to the next party leader to follow Layton on to the popular show and flip burgers.

There was also emotion. Layton's children Mike and Sarah were part of a moving family video montage, speaking frankly of his last days. "There was hope into the last hours,'' a teary-eyed Sarah told the camera.

Layton's own voice speaking of a better world for his granddaughter Beatrice had the convention hall rapt and silent.

But it was Olivia Chow who got the crowd back on its feet with her claim that last spring's "Orange Crush'' is staying and growing.

"All of you,'' she said, "are the Layton legacy.''

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LIVE FROM THE NDP CONVENTION FLOOR

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Thank you for joining us. Lots to review here:

Convention Coverage, HuffPost Style: The Huffington Post Canada brings you comprehensive coverage of the NDP leadership convention in Toronto, with photos, behind-the-scenes video, opinion and reporting from the convention floor.

Updates at @HuffPostCanada, on our Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj's Facebook Page, on our NDP leadership site, and on our politics page and our front page.

DELEGATES LEAVE THE HALL


After a long two days, delegates file out of convention for good

Mar 24, 2012 | Source: Keek.com

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@ RyanPainterShow : It is AMAZING how quickly ppl have ALREADY written off @ThomasMulcair based on his first speech. You'll see, is all I have to say #ndpldr

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@ alishasawhney : Muclair represents the new face of the NDP in Canadian politics. Was his lack of vigour in his speech just due to exhaustion? #ndpldr

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@ seleross : I only have twitter over here. Terrible reviews of speech; no idea what was actually said. #ndpldr

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@ tomhawthorn : No question. Fiasco of a victory speech by Mulcair. Wonder who'll tell him? #ndpldr

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@ itsabbeyk : After 7 months of campaigning and 12+ hours of coverage on CBC, it's finally over and an ex-Liberal is leading the NDP. #ndpldr

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@ freethephoenix : Wonderful speech, Mulcair!! And Congratulations!! Don't heed the haters :) We'll make Canada better for them, too. #ndpldr

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@ RayCecile : Mulcair's speech didn't say anything about putting a sound policy in place that will help business' create jobs #cdnpoli #ndpldr

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@ SimStr1 : No fire in @thomasmulcair. We need fire from the left and @ElizabethMay has it. We'll see who inspires youth! #ndpldr

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@ ocean_raven : Rethinking my support of the NDP now that Mulcair is in the leadership role. I do not trust him. #ndpldr

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@ evansolomoncbc : Thomas Mulcair says "in order to have first ndp fed govt our party must reach beyond traditional base" #cdnpoli #ndpldr

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@ IvisonJ : "Our future is limitless, if we get our priorities right" - Mulcair. He made that line sound like he was ordering pizza. #ndpldr

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"From medicare to public pensions, these values are reflected in the institutions we built, institutions we risk losing under the polices of the current government."

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@ Snafulp : @HuffPostCanada There goes Jack Layton's dream and hardwork down the drain..This man is a wolf in sheep's clothing..I am so sad today

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@ stphnmaher : Sad faces in Topp bleachers. http://t.co/5cNHC4CY

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@ althiaraj : "Our future is limitless if we get our priorities right," Mulcair says

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@ SusanDelacourt : Okay, @ThomasMulcair is reading, not delivering his speech. #ndpldr

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"Democracy can't just mean the right to vote. Democracy must also mean .. knowing that your vote matters."

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Mulcair: (paraphrased) The youth are so turned off by today's politics they won't vote. It's not that they don't care, it's that they don't trust their vote will make a difference.

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Mulcair talks about the people he met in community centres across the country:

"The voices of those Canadians should not only be heard, they should be at the centre of our national agenda."

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@ rachelmendleson : Broadbrent joins Mulcair, other candidates on the stage #ndpldr http://t.co/qrY9yq5N

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To my mother, my mom, who with her brothers and sistgers is up north watching us, hello!

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And the speech begins.

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Dec 31, 1969 | Source: Keek.com

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Dec 31, 1969 | Source: Keek.com

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Dec 31, 1969 | Source: Keek.com

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@ althiaraj : Thomas Mulcair leaves bleechers to come give his speech to #ndpldr candidates http://t.co/8MiiVF0M

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It's no secret Thomas Mulcair has some unifying to do. Expect to hear much about this in the speech, which will happen momentarily

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(CP) Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair has been chosen to succeed Jack Layton as leader of the federal NDP.

Mulcair claimed 57.2 per cent of the vote in a fourth-ballot victory over chief rival Brian Topp, who claimed 42.8 per cent.

The two front-runners were the last men standing after a day-long voting marathon that was plagued by online delays, the result of an attempted cyber-attack on the party's website.

Long-shot candidate Nathan Cullen persisted until the third ballot, outlasting rivals Peggy Nash, Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton and Martin Singh.

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Nycole Turmel as well in an apparent show of NDP solidarity

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