Jack Layton is fighting prostate cancer.
“It’s the same kind of prostate cancer that my father was diagnosed with 17 years ago,” the NDP Leader told reporters Friday in Toronto. “He, like the overwhelming majority of men with prostate cancer, fought it and won. …I intend to bring to this battle the same sense of determination and optimism that he did.”
The condition was diagnosed in December, and treatments began this week.
Mr. Layton, 59, said he will not step down as leader while being treated. He noted that his wife, Olivia Chow, had also fought cancer.
“She won her battle and I’m going to win mine as well,” he said.
In January of 2003, Jack Layton inherited the leadership of a moribund party had just 13 MPs. In the 2000 election, the New Democrats under Alexa McDonough took just 8.51 per cent of the vote.
After winning a first ballot victory, Mr. Layton promised that “Canadian politics will be fundamentally changed.”
Over the past seven years, that prediction has proved correct, though Mr. Layton was not the most significant catalyst.
He has, on the other hand, increased both the size of the NDP caucus – to 37 – and the party’s fundraising efforts. And in 2008, the New Democrats, for the first time, spent the maximum allowed by Elections Canada in a federal campaign.
But Mr. Layton made it clear that he considers this disease a temporary setback that will not impair his ongoing leadership of his party.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff wished his political opponent well.
“I wish him strength and courage on the road to recovery,” he said in a statement, “and I know all Canadians stand behind him in this fight.”