In the wake of federal NDP leader Jack Layton’s announcement that he was stepping down temporarily because of another cancer diagnosis, New Democrat MPs gathered in Ottawa last Wednesday and endorsed Layton’s recommendation that Quebec MP Nycole Turmel be named interim leader.
“It was an incredibly emotional meeting,” said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
“I’ve been in a lot of intense caucus meetings, I’ve seen a lot of issues, but mixing up the personal and political in this is impossible to tease apart.”
But as shocked as MPs were at the news their leader was going through another bout of cancer, Cullen said the atmosphere at the end of the meeting was “incredibly uplifting and determined”.
Asked by the Sentinel if Layton had told the caucus what kind of cancer he was now facing, Cullen said that was unknown at this time.
He said Layton had gone in for a check up and the results were “one of those good news, bad news moments”. While the tests had found he had successfully fought off the prostrate cancer, “they found indications of other cancer going on.”
(Editor’s note: one of the battery of tests you go through in this situation throws up what is basically a cancer indicator number.
If the tests had determined the prostrate cancer had been knocked downed but the indicator number was still high, that would tip doctors that there is another form of cancer present.)
Cullen said that as of last Wednesday doctors had not determined what cancer Layton now faced.
As for when Layton might return to work, Cullen said, “We kind of challenged Jack today – in a very loving way – saying this may be the hardest thing ever, just to put down the Blackberry, not watch TV, not feel you have to come back to work.”
Cullen likened it to a professional athlete who gets hurt, feels a responsibility to play and comes back too early only to get hurt again.
“None of us put politics or the party over Jack’s health and he heard that loud and clear.”
And pointing to the outpouring of support for Layton, including from people who are not even NDP supporters, Cullen added, “it just shows you how dignified and classy Canadians are.”