Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Did Jack Layton Lie?

It's always sad when someone has to announce rather publicly that they have cancer. Accepting the diagnosis is hard enough, but sharing the news in a press conference must be brutal.

I'd like to believe that no Canadian would take any amount of joy at a political foe being struck down by a debilitating disease which removes him or her from the political stage.
I didn't vote for Jack nor do I particularly like him or his politics, but he was elected fair and square and I hope that he, like all elected officials get to carry out their mandate in good health, in service to their constituency.

That being said I cannot shake the feeling that Jack hasn't been entirely truthful with us in relation to his disease.
In his speech, he told us that he started feeling ill at the end of the last Parliamentary session, which puts it about mid-June.
He said he consulted doctors who ran tests and then informed him weeks later that he has another, different cancer.

With all due respect, that story doesn't stand up.
"In the closing days of the most recent session of the House of Commons, I started suffering from some stiffness and some pain. And after the House rose, I undertook a series of tests at Princess Margaret Hospital here in Toronto. My battle against prostate cancer, as it turns out from these tests, is going very well. My PSA levels remain very, very low. However, these tests, whose results I received just last week, also indicate that I have a new cancer – non-prostate cancer – that’s going to require further treatment. 
If Jack Layton is trying to convince us that he only found out he was cancer-stricken last week, he should take a look in the mirror.

It is patently clear to anyone who has nursed a loved one through a debilitating cancer experience  that Jack Layton is well into the grip of the disease.

Sorry to be cruel.
Sorry to be the first to say it, but Jack Layton is probably lying about the timeline.
Deep down, you know it as well.

He's probably been hiding his cancer for quite a while and how long he has been ill, is an open question.

Way back at the beginning of June those in attendance at his Stornaway media garden party already noticed his gaunt frame and his weakness. He spent most of the affair in a lawn chair. He was clearly already quite ill and for him to tell us that he didn't know about the cancer then, is probably untenable.

I say it's likely that Layton is lying (but not impossible that he is telling the truth,) because an oncologist explained to me that  he's seen patients ignore their illness or refuse to biopsy a tumour because they were obsessed with work.
Could be, but again, rather unlikely. Layton has been ill with prostrate cancer and is well sensitized that he needs to be closely monitored.

In passing, the doctor went on  to tell me that speculation in the news media about the specific diagnosis is quite irresponsible. There are many scenarios that could be in play and while many diagnosis are more likely than others, it's impossible to rule out anything.
The broken hip he suffered earlier this year could have been caused by his cancer or be unrelated.
His prostate cancer could have spread, but that is uncommon...
His raspy voice could indicate lung cancer....etc. etc.
So don't believe any of the media diagnosis.

Sadly, Layton's refusal to disclose the type of cancer that he has, in addition to his emaciated condition,  leads us to speculate that his cancer is life-threatening and his prognosis poor.
Readers will recall that Mr Layton was particularly generous with information on his prostrate cancer and went to pains to explain that he was doing well. Even in his press conference announcing his new cancer, he made it a point to tell us that his PSA level was low.
His contrasting stinginess with information on his current condition is particularly telling.

And so everybody is too polite to ask the hard question.
When did Layton first find out about the cancer and was it before the last federal election?

Some will say, asking these type of questions is in bad taste, that we should leave Mr. Layton alone because he is in the battle for his life and that pointed questions are out of line and cruel.

That's probably the position of the mainstream press who have already failed in their duty to inform us that Layton was clearly sick. Reporters are falling over themselves to tell us now that they knew Jack Layton wasn't right, that he looked terribly gaunt and weak for quite a while now.
Shame on them for not doing their job. Another failure by Canada's lily-livered press, always too accommodating and deferential.
The country has an absolute right to know if the leader of the opposition has a life-threatening disease, even if it is the early stages.

Mr. Layton has fed the mystery by not engaging in full disclosure.

And so the million dollar question remains. Did Jack Layton know he had this cancer during the last federal election and did he deliberately fail to disclose? If he did, it is a terrible betrayal of the electorate. 

If Mr. Layton is telling the truth, it is easy enough to prove. Until then a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the credibility of himself and the NDP.


  1. I don't care one way or the other about the politics of it, but this post is truly shameful. Are you so desperate for topics? You're speculating publicly about *a human life* and using the old 'but he's an elected official' trope to justify tabloid-level garbage. You should be genuinely remorseful over this post - and remove it immediately.

    To call this 'in bad taste' understates profoundly.


  2. If a person has a terminal illness, why do you think that they should not work?
    Until he is in the grave may I suggest to you that whether he knew or not is PERSONAL and CONFIDENTIAL.
    Good for him and the NDP to do well with the Canadian electorate.
    Any one of the overweight MPs could have a cardiovascular event. Are they responsible to the public to tell us they have hypertension, diabetes, erectile dysfunction? I think not. So, while you are speculating that he is terminally I'll, which is highly likely, give him the credit and accolades he deserves for sticking it out. Will the same be said for you? Calling the man a liar? I am sure we would all appreciate the privacy when we face trial by cancer.

  3. It's a fair question to ask. But one wonders if you can blame him--especially given his success. If you know your time is limited, wouldn't you want to ensure your "legacy" is firmly established? Jack has clearly done that. I wish he and his family all the best and hope recovery is still a possibility.

    However, I think saying what lots of us were thinking is not "shameful." It would be if you tapped his phone or sold out one of his family members...

    The fact is, whether he knew or not is irrelevant don't you think? Stephen Harper could be hit by a car tomorrow or Bob Rae could drop from a heart attack. Know one ever knows where life and death will take you. He took the party to new heights and for that, I assume, NDPers are eternally grateful.

  4. You are a bit mean, but when it come to elements concerning private life, an individual has the right to keep things for himself.

    You saw Jack, you probably listen to him on television. The man you are seeing on the picture is one of patient following a treatment for cancer. So he probably started his treatment way before his public announcement and personally, I think like you that he knew way before of this new cancer and started treatment a little while ago.

    I think that this was a tentative to go through treatment during the months of summer without having to go public about this new cancer. Since its a new form of cancer - not prostate like his last one - maybe this battle is more difficult this time. In result, Jack had no choice to go public at this time, because the party has to prepare for September and he won't be able to be around for meeting and stuff before a new session begins.

    So for me, its all make sense. He may had giving publicly a story different that what happen in reality but truly, I think it was an ultimate try in order to avoid all public declaration about a new cancer. It's not a lied, it's a tentative to keep private what need to be keep private.

    Despite all, we need to appreciate the really good man and leader that is Jack Layton. Voting Helene Laverdiere was one of the best thing I ever done of my life :) Yes, I kick Gilles Duceppe out of the place and I am very proud of it. I will pray for Jack and he'll be fine.

  5. New leader Nycole Turmel, former union head, tax and spend socialist scum bag. SHE Told members to vote for the Bloc head candidate in Gatno a couple of elections ago, she is/was former separatist…a real piece of work. Also she is NOT fluently bilingual. That is a complete lie Jack. Her English is about as bad as Dions and Cretins…just dreadful.

  6. Personally I couldn't care less if he lied about his timeline. Doesn't affect my life or my political perspective of him one iota. It's not like he lied (if he did indeed lie) about his policies. If anything he should be admired for not telling us about his disease (if he is lying that is) because that means that he willingly gave up a potentially huge sympathy vote while most other politicians would salivate at the idea.

  7. Let's hope he pulls through. I fear that miscreant Mulcair will make a leadership push if Layton steps down. He cannot be trusted and would cheerfully throw his fellow English speaking Quebecers under a bus to clinch the Quebecois nationalist vote.

  8. Editor: I'll preface this by saying I really enjoy your blog and that 99% of the time I'm in complete agreement with you, but I think you spent too much time in the sun before writing this one.
    "The country has an absolute right to know if the leader of the opposition has a life-threatening disease, even if it is the early stages."
    I absolutely disagree with you on this. He's the opposition leader in a majority parliament. With the next election 4 years away, what possible difference could it make to any aspect of the average Canadian's life by being privy to this highly personal information?
    "That's probably the position of the mainstream press who have already failed in their duty to inform us that Layton was clearly sick. Reporters are falling over themselves to tell us now that they knew Jack Layton wasn't right, that he looked terribly gaunt and weak for quite a while now.
    Shame on them for not doing their job. Another failure by Canada's lily-livered press, always too accommodating and deferential."
    So, What we need here is a British-style press who indulge in speculation, rumour-mongering and maybe hacking cellphones or going through his physicians garbage? No thank you.
    "And so the million dollar question remains. Did Jack Layton know he had this cancer during the last federal election and did he deliberately fail to disclose? If he did, it is a terrible betrayal of the electorate."
    What??????? Did people vote for his health or his policies? I wouldn't have believed I'd EVER be writing in support of Jack Layton for ANY reason, but here I am.
    Really, your piece made me wonder at first whether your blog had been hijacked.

  9. Just a bit of historical perspective.

    Around and after the end of WWII, the independent movement in British India was gaining momentum. One the actor in that movement was Muhammad Ali Jinnah. His involvement in the movement was to create a separate country from India, for people with Islamic belief. He then led the separation of India into Dominion of Pakistan and Union of India upon independence from the UK in 1947.

    Jinnah, however, had been suffering from tuberculosis in the 1940s, an incurable illness at that time. Indeed, he died in 1948, just one year after the independence, and the separation, of India. Historians tend to agree that should Jinnah's illness was known at the time he was active, the movement of separating India might not have taken off and Pakistan might not have been separated from India.

    Now, notice all the conflicts between India and Pakistan in that region. Notice also the instability there. There are theories that those could have been avoided should India have remained intact.

    That is the first point. The second point I have is that in many countries there are requirements that those intending to run in the general election for the leader of the country should have a doctor's clearance as a prerequisite. The purpose is to minimize the chance of a leader dropping dead in office.

    The point the Editor brings is valid, IMHO. Should there was a miracle and Mr. Layton was elected Prime Minister, what would have happened to the country now? He ran in the election with a chance of becoming the Head of Government with knowledge that he might not be able to perform that responsibility.

  10. Some very good points in the comments above, thanks for sharing the ideas.
    As for the Editor, I've noticed recently that he can, at times, become a wee bit bi-polar (one day you are Hero, the other you are told Good Riddance) - either that or he has truly become the quintessential abrasive angryphone, seemingly incapable of not firing at his own allies and offending those that support his work the majority of the time.

  11. I already detested your politics, which is one thing, but this is pretty low.

  12. Perhaps we’re losing sight of the two main issues and in the process are being a bit too harsh on Editor just as much as he’s being on Jack.

    Leaders can be made – by circumstance, with preparation, and sometimes by sheer dumb luck. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” saith the Bard.

    Leaders can die – in office no less – of old age, from disease, choking on snack food (apparently Dubya almost did), or from a bullet (and join a rather long list). Asking what did Layton know about his cancer(s) and when did he know it is rather secondary when you consider the circus that is (Canadian) politics in general – as well as the perverse carrousel of pundits and spectators.

    Nature abhors a vacuum, and that’s why succession rules – or at the very least a hastily improvised pecking order – are built into virtually all political formations. The resilience of organizations (and their survival) to an effective decapitation of their leadership ultimately boils down to the realities of that organization’s structure and management. The fit survive.

    Some might argue that a party can only be as strong as its leader’s appeal, while others swear that if an organization is rotten from within, it doesn’t matter how stellar the guy (or girl) at the top is. Perhaps reality is some shade inbetween. Kipling did, after all, write that “the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

    Federalist, “sovereignist”, nationalist, nihilist, liberal, conservative, blue, red, orange, green — irrespective of our political stripes (or lack thereof), this episode ought to give us voters food for thought about the sustainability of the electoral platforms we “buy into”, or alternatively, the teams that we effectively “hire” into office to apply them.

    Or perhaps the more cynical among us will realize futility even in that, considering how large a part of its electoral platform an average party will implement while in power.

    Democracy, thou fickle mistress!

  13. Editor is just exercising his right to free speech. Isn't that the marvel of our democracy? I'm not particularly impressed his replacement is a rookie MP, a separatist and one of those Quebec union chimpanzees that has done more for job loss in Quebec than has helped.

    Whether Layton was sick or not during the campaign is his business. It's obvious he IS the NDP, and it's no surprise he put a separatist at the helm considering Quebec was the bread and butter that won the NDP the opposition benches. I do hope Layton comes back in improved health because I want to see how the movie over the next four years ends. He found a way to suck and blow at the same time, appeasing mostly the separatists and other assorted shmuck leftists both in and outside Quebec. Sucking and blowing over a five week campaign is one thing, but another thing trying to do it over a four year mandate.

    I have no doubt that with or without Layton, these swinging chimpanzees in a crystal shop will cause a whale of damage, but if Layton is there after the four years the egg will all be on HIS face. Then again, egg on Mulcair's face will look good on him, and he'll equally deserve it, too! Pack of shmucks!

  14. Bano from Montreal,

    I think the editor is completely out to lunch.Jack has been receiving treatment for his Prostate cancer,is that not reason enough for looking as frail as he does,the fact that he has a new cancer does not help for sure.People should be ashamed of themselves to pass judgment on a cancer stricken human being.As for his choice in replacing him who cares he is the reason they got all those seats and by the way got rid of all but 4 block separatists.

  15. Perhaps rather than titling this "Did Jack Layton Lie?" it should more accurately be titled "Will Jack Layton Die?".

    All things aside with politics and what the editor wrote, I think things look very grim for Jack Layton. Fighting cancer is not a simple illness you can shake off, people forget there is no cure and it's a terminal disease. You can delay it from killing you, and if you're *extremely* lucky prevent it from spreading at all by cutting out affected areas of the body. Even then you have to hope it doesn't resurface years later...one rogue cell is all it takes.

    I don't agree with his party or politics, but I sincerely hope he somehow pulls through. Realistically though, I won't be surprised if sometime in the next few weeks or months we read about the cancer taking his life.

  16. Seems like this debate has made it's way to the pages of The Globe & Mail.

  17. Your piece is poorly-written and lacking in depth. We know all we need to know about Mr. Layton's health; we will find out in the fullness of time whether or not he will be able to resume his role as Opposition Leader. In the meantime, I suggest you refrain from penning any more drivel on the matter, at least until you learn the difference between the words "prostrate" and "prostate". Oh, and the garden party at Stornaway wasn't in early June; it was on the 28th. But you wouldn't want to get bogged down with facts, would you?

  18. I am surprised at the overwhelmingly negative response to this article. If, in fact, Layton knew before the election that he was ill and failed to disclose that, then he seriously misled the voting public. A huge number of first-time NDP supporters were, in actual fact, simply Jack Layton supporters. If he ran, knowing that there was every likelyhood that, if elected, he would be unable to fulfill his responsibilities, then he absolutely betrayed the trust of the voters who elected him. And on a personal note, call me naive but a lie is a lie is a lie. Not wanting to share personal, medical information is one thing, lying to me about it is something else entirely.

  19. Anon @ 12:56: I do agree with everything you wrote.

    11:31PM: Sorry, pal, but it's not drivel. The man was obviously sick during the campaign as it took time for Jack to look and sound as lousy as he is now, and it was his persona that won the day; furthermore, he promised Quebec the moon and the stars, i.e., promises that succinctly can be labelled fantasy.

    Like I wrote earlier, Layton found a way to suck and blow his way into the opposition benches, but when it comes time to deliver on those promises, good luck to him.

    Don't get me wrong, I do wish him luck in getting medicated back to good health. I'm sure he has the resolve and character to give that fight his all, and I would like to see him get back in the house if for no other reason than to face the music for his over-the-top promises.

    I think he'll attempt to appease Quebec at the cost of the Real Canada because that is where his bread was buttered for him, but he'll pay dearly for that in the end when he get few or no seats outside Quebec. He positioned himself where he has to take a side eventually. Short-term gains for long-term pains; then again, that may be a sign that as the top part of the hour glass of life starts to manifest, he may have not told many people he sees how little sand is left in that top portion.

    To explain, think of the bottom part of an hour glass as your past, the narrow part where the sand goes through grain by grain is your present, and the top part is the opaque portion representing your future, and until the picture becomes clear (it often doesn't), you don't know how much sand is in that portion.

  20. Mississauga,

    I think you are mixing two issues here. Just to start, I agree with both of your positions.

    First issue is whether he should disclose his health condition during the campaign. While I do not think he should have mentioned the kind of illness he had, he should have had the decency and integrity to not continue the campaign with him as the showcase had he known that he might not be able to perform his responsibilities in their full extent. Once again, in many other countries clean bill of health is a prerequisite for one running in an elected office.

    The second issue is whether NDP wants to appease Quebec separatists or to continue with its federal platform. One day, some day, a line must be drawn in the sand. The separatist and federalist ideologies are completely against each other. There is no logical way, I would think, that the two ideologies can coexist harmoniously in one platform. NDP being a federal party is one thing, the other thing is that its becoming an official opposition party can be mainly attributed to the votes of Quebecers who lean toward sovereignty.

  21. ...to Troy: What you wrote in your second paragraph was what I was implying with respect to Layton's trying to suck and blow at the same time. You can't control two opposing ideologies and stay liked.

    Bourassa was probably the best at it, but he was not liked because if it. Federalists saw him as a nationalist, and nationalists saw him as a federalist. It was said Bourassa slithered through the serpentine...a little on one side, then a little on the other.

    On a personal note, when I separated from my ex, both our lawyers had problems with our separation agreement. Based on the Bourassa experience, we must've assembled a pretty good agreement because both lawyers didn't like it and both tried to goad each of us into escalating into a costly dispute. Neither one of us took the bait! Score one for Bou-bou!

  22. Jack Layton was my councilor in Toronto. He betrayed me. I despise him because he is a media phoney who betrayed me. Not merely a liar, he is EVIL! I will celebrate his death.

    Unless you have met Jack Layton, as I have a few times, you have no right to criticize me. All you know about him is the BS in the media.

  23. My husband was diagnosed with Pancratic cancer March 9th by the election in May he looked like Jack did, by the 17th of May he was dead. On march 4th we had no idea that he was sick, just back and muscle pain easily explained by his profession. Your post is not only inflamitory it is dispicable and ill informed

  24. You have no love, no hope, no optimism. Wasted energy, wasted words.

  25. Typical conservative blunder. No compassion... Everything is black or white... I am sorry that I read the post. Shameful.

  26. I also believe it is wrong to withhold information when so much is at stake, how is the fed ndp supposed to function without the only person people really voted for, im so sorry for jacks family and loved ones death is a terrible thing to accept, but what about the living who have to deal with reality now that jack is gone, a party without a leader who probabely knew he would not be able to lead, no fair at all for canada as a whole or for quebec voters, or if you like the poor liberals too sad to even think about, may people learn from this and may jack laytons memory always remind us that life is short

  27. Jack finished the race as he should. Any one sick is optimistic of getting better, as they should.
    If you are diagnosed with cancer, will you stop writing?
    Jack accomplished a great thing for the NDP. The NDP will continue with this sucess under a new leader. What's the problem? The world will not end. Well done Jack.

    1. If you are a writer, people are not depending on you in the same way as they are depending on a world leader. A world leader should put the needs of the people first and promote another candidate. I think he was selfish for not coming straight out with it. Jack should have stopped and just fought with the cancer instead of lying to all of us in the hope that he would recover. Did he think things would slow down if he were elected? He might be alive today had he been honest. Not a very heroic figure if we look at what he was really doing to us.

  28. With regards to the basis of your argument - that he was very ill, therefore he had known he had this cancer long ago... I have known people who have gone undiagnosed with a type of cancer right up until the final days before their death. Some can spread rapidly and be hard to diagnose.

    Stop this kind of pettiness. The man can't defend himself anymore. There are just as many ways to speculate about his death that can describe how he could have gotten so sick so quickly, why not take the time to write about those. Instead you choose to write pages, and pages, to try to put down the character of a dead man. Bravo to you.

  29. My thoughts equal those of the editor, Jack had a duty to inform the electorate, especially in this election, most of the votes were for Jack personaly,not for the NDP, and many voted against the liberal leadership (or lack therof).
    I'v been a liberal my whole life but couldnt bring myself to vote liberal because of Ignatieff. I guess many votes would have gone a different way, had the voters known that there was a chance that Jack would not be the Leader of the NDP. The opinion of the editor might sound callous but as a voter you are entitled to know all the facts about the candidate that have a direct bearing on his abillity to perform his duties.

  30. I'll start my comment by saying I am not an NDP supporter. Having said that, I do have a lot of respect for all politicians. I think many of them sacrifice a great deal financially to contribute to, what they believe to be, the greater good of society. (Some might serve to fulfill egotistical needs, but that's a discussion for another day.

    I know Jack Layton was beloved and respected by many and I've been concerned about the reaction I would receive if I expressed the first thoughts I had when I heard of his passing. When I heard the news, I immediately thought that his death came to soon after the election for him to have not known prior to the spring campaign that he was dying.

    It's not particularly popular to speak negatively of the deceased, however, if Jack Layton knew he was terminal prior to the election, he has comitted a massive fraud against the Canadian electorate.

    The NDP success wasn't a result of a shift in party policy, or the strength of candidates in the ridings in which the NDP had members elected. As a matter of fact there has been much documetation about the lack of qualifications of elected NDP Members of Parliament since the election. The party's success was simply a reflection of Jack's personal popularity in comparison to the popularity of the Leader of the Liberal Party. The public saw Layton as the most viable challenger to Stephen Harper and a more capable Opposition Leader than Michail Ignateif.

    Now the Canadian people are left with an Official Opposition that will (eventually) have a leader that wasn't publicly elected to fill such an important role. Also, the voice of the Opposition will reflect the views of a party that became the Official Opposition because of the oratory skills and popularity of it's leader, not because the political policies of that party were neccessarily the second choice of the Canadian voters.

    My worst thought is, that because of Jack Layton's personal popularity, a slight shift in voting could have conceivably put the NDP as Official Opposition in a Conservative Minority controlled House of Commons. If that had happened Canadians could have been facing a situation where the Government Of Canada could be defeated and a new Prime Minister could be sworn in without having been elected for such a role by Canadians. Not that this couldn't happen with the death of an elected Prime Minister, however, these concerns are based on the thought that Jack Layton may have known he was terminally ill prior to the spring campaign.

    I don't want to seem totally insensitive to the passing of Mr. Layton, however it appears I'm not the only one to wonder whether or not he knew the degree of his illness prior to the election. Canadians hired (via election) a skilled Parliamentarian to lead the Official Opposition last May. That skilled Parliamentarian has now passed on. Is it fair to the Canadian electorate that we will now have an Opposition Leader we didn't vote for?

    Many companies require employees to take a physical as part of a hiring process. It may be time for political candidates to submit physician's letters with their riding nomination in regard to the liklihood of them being able to serve out their mandate. This would ensure we end up being served by the politians we voted to be served by. It would also allow sceptics like me to purge any ill thoughts to an otherwise beloved Canadian.

  31. Maybe the fact that he knew he might die made him more inspiring. Instead of wasting time arguing about small things, he concentrated on the big picture and was positive. Facing a life threatening illness can change your prospective. As a cancer survivor myself who defied a terminal diagnosis I am very interested in the kind of cancer he had, I just can't help but be curious, I just wish he had allowed us to know. I have speculated myself that maybe it was pancreatic, and then also maybe it was brain cancer. There is the white skin around his eyes while the rest of his skin is brown, is this related to radiation? I don't know much about brain tumours, but I have heard stories of religious leaders who saw visions and were very inspiring and had brain tumours.

  32. Jack was a nice enough guy, but not a world leader. I have a few reasons for saying that, but my biggest problem with Jack is that he pushed himself too hard in the end. He was goal oriented and wanted to reach that next level. That's good for him, but it would not have been good for Canada. We need our leaders to go in strong. What ever happens after a person has started a race, that's part of the race, but you don't start a race knowing that you are likely not going to finish, especially when you run it for an entire country and there are numerous healthy candidates available to lead. If he was smart, he would have admitted his illness and lifted someone else up from the NDP to shop them around. It would have been better for the NDP and the NDP could have ended up in power. I can't count the number of times people said to me, "I can't vote for Jack, he's sick, you can just tell." Me, I feel a bit lied to. Jack wanted what was best for himself in the end, not what was best for Canada. In the end, he wasn't much of a hero, from my angle. What I've said may not be true, but that's how it seems to me, that's all - no offense intended.

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