Layton’s fitness will help in fight, friend says

Steve Bartlett
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NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks at a new conference in Toronto on Monday. Layton has been diagnosed with another form of cancer and is taking a temporary leave of absence as leader of the federal New Democrats to fight it. -Photo by The Canadian Press

A St. John’s man who considers Jack Layton a friend and mentor thinks the NDP leader’s dedication to physical fitness will help him in his latest battle against cancer.

“He’s always worked on his health,” says Bruce Pearce.

“He enjoys being fit, being healthy. I just think that is really going to help.”

Layton, who has previously fought prostate cancer, announced Monday he has been diagnosed with a new form of cancer.

He’s taking leave from his role as the leader of the federal New Democrats.

Pearce, a well-known advocate for the homeless, studied under Layton at York University in the mid-’80s and worked closely with him from 1988 to ’91, when Layton was involved in municipal politics.

He went on to serve as Layton’s executive assistant from 1995 to ’97, when the politician was on Metro Toronto council.

Pearce says the experiences were positive.

“He’s been a mentor. I was a young person when I first met him,” Pearce says.

“There’s so much talk in the world about politicians and not a lot of it is very positive — and I understand that — but I don’t hesitate to say I worked for Jack Layton and he was a consummate professional, a great person to work for,” Pearce said. “He served constituents well and focused on the higher goals politics could help achieve.”

Pearce, a development worker with the St. John’s Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness, was doing his master’s in environmental studies when he took Layton’s municipal government courses.

“It was a very interesting introduction to Jack. We were given steno pads and we sat in the council chamber and we actually had to analyse who had power, where was it in the room and how were people using it, for good or ill. … That got me past the flow charts and graphs and how things were supposed to work and into the real world.”

Pearce says Layton showed the same ingenuity as a councillor, working on a range of initiatives such as redesigning city government so its bottom line included a focus on human health.

“He was in the forefront of a lot of innovations in (Toronto).”

Pearce, who also helped co-ordinate the Newfoundland effort in Layton’s successful bid to become NDP leader in 2003, has kept in touch with his friend and sent him a note Monday after hearing the news.

“He’s definitely facing a serious battle. He certainly looked different. I thought it was brave of him to come forward and talk to people directly in the midst of it.”

Pearce adds he was heartened by the response to Layton’s announcement from the media, public and politicians.

“It showed the better side of what we can be in politics. And I hope he’s getting the best care possible and I hope he can beat this.”

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: NDP, York University, Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness

Geographic location: Toronto, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • David
    July 27, 2011 - 11:11

    Danny Williams and Jack Layton are saints, and shut up if you don't go along with the mob-think and add to the parade. You cannot have individual thoughts here.....this is Newfoundland, and you better toe the line or we'll beat those ideas and thoughts out of your skull! Oh, and we don't read so good, our comprehension skills are minimal, and we love engaging in hyperbole and makes us special!

  • Shawn Silver
    July 27, 2011 - 09:39

    Steve, I want to commend you on your article. I have to state for the record Jack Layton is one of THE greatest men I ever met. Not just a great man and politician but a great humaitarian and the voice and advocate for so many. It`s certainly not a pleasant situation to be faced with, but knowing Jack and his fighting spirit and dedication to his health and his mission in life, I imagine this is a temporary set back. We`re wishing him all the best and legions of us are behind you, Jack, there with you in spirit. Shawn Silver.

  • SheldonTwo
    July 27, 2011 - 09:20

    The thin look of him makes me worried. He looks awfully sick :( I hope that he can pull through this. Going through it for a second time must be tougher than anything I can imagine. He is a great man and I hope he can pull through.

  • Ned Anderson
    July 27, 2011 - 09:07

    I'd like to ask David NOT to be so critical ?? Does he KNOW Mr. Layton personally ??? If not then how can he know what he may or may not accomplish ??? It was Terry Fox's EFFORT not his accomplishment that has brought the fight against cancer forward , and Terry's Mom not letting his effort go to waste, and not letting us forget what Terry gave,( his life) to make us remember. Do not begrudge Mr. Layton this attention, for who's to say what he MAY strive to accomplish if he comes through this OK . I have to say I am NOT political in ANY form , but I admire good character.

  • Thelma Dobson
    July 27, 2011 - 09:06

    How often we ask, Why do the worst things happen to the best people?. Here it is again, but it's coming up against millions and millions of best wishes, prayers and messages of hope. I add mine to this mountain of get well wishes. I feel you will beat this Jack.

  • Marion
    July 27, 2011 - 08:22

    A great man, A great humanitarian..God Bless you and praying for a speedy recovery!!!

  • David
    July 27, 2011 - 08:09

    Look...I'm not a heartless person, and I wish Jack Layton all the best. Cancer is awful. But he's getting more press coverage than the death of Mother Theresa did....and he isn't even dead. How could the press even possibly react appropriately to that possiblility, given THIS praise-fest!? To this point, he's had a very pleasant, if not downright easy professional life, and there are thousands of other Canadians who won't even get the luxury of being diagnosed in a timely fashion to have a shot at any treatment, let alone VIP service. Jack Layton is not Terry Fox, so please stop building him up into one.

    • Chantal
      July 27, 2011 - 09:46

      Your compassion and warm wishes are inspiring. Thank you so much for your contribution.

    • Tim E.
      July 27, 2011 - 12:02

      David, after reading your drivel, the word "heartless" isn't the one that came to mind...

  • Mary
    July 27, 2011 - 07:54

    So sorry to hear of Mr. Layton's new health problems. My prayers are with him and his family for a speedy recovery. Jack Layton is a wonderful man in politics,it's too bad there are not many more like him with so much genuine passion for the common people of our great country. Wishing you many blessings as you go through treatments and the road to recovery.