Ontario mourns federal NDP leader Jack Layton

As published in The Kincardine News (Aug. 22, 2011).

Huron-Bruce NDP candidate, Grant Robertson, mourns Jack Layton

Credit: Jackman Chiu
Credit: Jackman Chiu – Nathan Phillips adorned with chalk memorials following Layton’s passing early this week.
By Jennifer Schleich

Paisley-area farmer and NDP candidate Grant Roberston is joining with his fellow party members in mourning the loss of federal NDP leader Jack Layton.

Layton passed away early Monday morning, Aug. 22 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. He stepped down as leader of the NDP to focus on his health at the end of July.

“We’ve known Jack a long time and the news hit us pretty hard. Jack called me at home many times over the years looking for advice on agricultural issues and to keep up with what was going on in Huron-Bruce,” said Roberston.

He found the topic difficult to talk about as Layton had been a long-time friend and mentor to the Huron-Bruce candidate.

“I remember, one of the first few times Jack called the house to talk to me, my nine-year-old daughter answered the phone. When my wife and I came in from the barn she said Jack Layton had called and we just thought she’d heard one of those recorded messages,” reminisced Robertson.

Not too long after he attended a political conference in Toronto where he ran into Jack in an elevator.

“Low and behold in comes Jack, who says, ‘I had just the greatest conversation with your daughter recently,’ and we all had a great laugh at my expense,” he added.

According to Robertson, that’s the kind of person Layton was: the same person in both private and public. There were many times over the years when Layton would call the Robertson home looking for Grant and end up involved in conversations with family members and friends.

Despite the loss, Roberston says he is more determined than ever to help change the country and province for the better.

“Jack has left us all marching orders in his letter to Canadians. It’s a call to pick up the torch to build a prosperous Canada for the future, which is more important than any one leader,” he added.

Robertson will be running under the NDP banner in the region after he received the nomination of his party at a meeting on Saturday, Aug. 20 in Brussels.

He recently finished second place in the Huron- Bruce riding during the May federal election to incumbent Conservative MP Ben Lobb. Robertson lost to Lobb’s 28,922 votes with 13,417 but outstripped Liberal candidate Charlie Bagnato, who received only 8,784 votes.

Robertson’s decision to run in the provincial election wasn’t the original plan at the close of the federal election.

“When the federal election was over it wasn’t part of the plan to run provincially, especially so soon. However, I spent a day in May at Queen’s Park as a concerned community member with the folks protesting the closure of the Walkerton Jail and I was shocked by the arrogance and our poor reception,” he said.

After the meeting in Toronto he headed to a meeting in Kincardine about Wind Turbines and met with the same feelings from the community.

“People were complaining that their government was not listening to them and I started putting it together in my head,” he added.

Robertson said he’s very comfortable with the decision to run this fall. He is also not worried about the stance of the NDP on nuclear power effecting his chances.

“We (the NDP) are definitely supporting refurbishment of nuclear, just not new builds. What is important in Huron-Bruce is refurbishment,” said Robertson in response to reports that NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the NDP won’t support the future of nuclear.

Robertson said the NDP strongly support the workers at Bruce Power, who are an important part of the community in Huron-Bruce.

“Bruce Power supplies a significant portion of our energy needs on a day to day basis, there is no doubt. I ‘ve got friends, neighbours and family that all work at Bruce Power,” he added.

Robertson has served on the board of the National Farmers Union and was the top elected official for that organization in Ontario.

He first ran provincially for the NDP in 2003 and also ran federally in 2006, making this his third attempt at a parliamentary seat.

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