Regina Leader-Post: Federation of Canadian Municipalities Honours Former President, Late NDP Leader Jack Layton

June 2, 2012

SASKATOON – Delegates from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference paid tribute to former NDP leader Jack Layton on Saturday.

Layton became president of the FCM in 2001 after serving as the group’s vice-president.

“It was through his work in FCM that he understood why a good federal government would invest in communities and cities, and he took that message when he became leader of NDP,” said Olivia Chow, Layton’s widow.

“He always said in order to understand Canada, you have to know all the mayors and councillors because that’s democracy in action,” she told reporters after the tribute.

FCM president Berry Vrbanovic spoke to those gathered at the tribute, outlining a few of Layton’s accomplishments during his tenure with the federation.

“For those of us that knew him, he was a passionate advocate for Canada’s cities and communities,” Vrbanovic said.

Layton had a hand in the development of the group’s green municipal fund, supported by a $550-million federal endowment, presided while the federation signed on its 1,000th member community and helped spearhead municipal aid efforts overseas fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa, Vrbanovic said.

“He was a tenacious leader, a fighter for those Canadians we represent,” he said.

David Forbes, provincial NDP MLA for Saskatoon Centre, said the federation was really where Layton proved himself on the national stage.

“This is where he really cut his teeth in terms of being an elected representative,” Forbes said in an interview. “He did great work on housing and homelessness in Toronto, but he shared that experience right across Canada, and the FCM was a strong vehicle for that.”

Vrbanovic also announced an FCM youth fellowship in honour of Layton, the details of which are scheduled to be announced over the summer.

His speech was followed by a slide show displaying photos of Layton over the years and in his final breakthrough campaign in 2011. A song by children’s entertainer Raffi played over the slides, with Raffi singing portions of Layton’s farewell letter.

Raffi sang Layton’s now-famous last words accompanied by acoustic guitar, with other voices joining in until it ended with a chorus.

“Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic, and we’ll change the world.”

Delegates gave a standing ovation after the tribute. One elderly delegate simply rose and stood with his hand over his heart.

Source: Regina Leader-Post