POLITICS

Mulcair's Tribute To Layton May Show How Much Things Have Changed

08/22/2015 12:22 EDT | Updated 08/22/2015 12:59 EDT

Not long ago, the notion a federal NDP leader might dare say he wished to be prime minister — even during a campaign — was newsworthy.

But in 2008 and 2011, Jack Layton made a point of saying those words — "I'm running to be your prime minister" — to crowds across Canada. Again and again and again.

Brian Topp, one of Layton's closest advisers, wrote in The Globe and Mail that there were some in the party who insisted it was a "fundamental mistake" for an NDP leader to make it known that he intended to lead the federal government.

On Saturday, a tweet from current NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to mark the fourth anniversary of Layton's death perhaps reflected just how profoundly things have changed.

"Four years ago, we lost our friend Jack. Let's finish what he started," Mulcair wrote, before quoting Layton directly.

"Don't let them tell you it can't be done."

Layton died on Aug. 22, 2011 after a struggle with cancer, mere months after leading the NDP to 103 seats and official Opposition status.

If polls are to be believed, the NDP may now be less than two months away from forming government for the first time. Layton's widow, former MP Olivia Chow, is hoping to make a political comeback.

New Democrats have not been shy about highlighting links between Mulcair and his predecessor, even if their current leader has said in the past that he's "very different" from Layton.

Last October, the party released a three-minute video to supporters that focused heavily on Layton. The clip ends with Mulcair saying that New Democrats started "something special together" and that it's time to "get the job done."

After the Alberta NDP's stunning majority victory in May, the federal party also sent out a tweet drawing a parallel between Layton, Mulcair, and premier Rachel Notely.

A Toronto candidate also sparked headlines that month with a pamphlet featuring Layton's image prominently.

As the apparent front-runner, Mulcair is facing more scrutiny and facing more direct attacks than the NDP leaders who came before him.

But in what could be seen as a key part of Layton's legacy, the fact that an NDP leader wants to be prime minister is no longer news.

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In Photos: Canada Election 2015