Cullen: whole country behind Layton as leader battles new cancer

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says he knows the thoughts and prayers of all Northwest residents are with Jack Layton as the Leader of the Official Opposition takes a temporary leave from his parliamentary duties to battle a second, recently diagnosed cancer.

“Jack is a dear, dear friend and I, along with the people of Skeena-Bulkley Valley and all Canadians, are holding him close in our hearts as he faces this new health challenge.”

Cullen said the 103-member NDP Caucus is solidly behind Layton’s decision to take a medical leave of absence to focus solely on his health so that he can return to Parliament to work on the priorities of the people who elected him.

“This is life.  Cancer strikes people in every workplace and all walks of life.  We will support our friend and colleague and continue to get things done for Canadian families while Jack works flat out on his treatment and recovery.

“Jack is a fighter and he is incredibly strong both emotionally and physically.”

Cullen spoke this morning from the Vancouver airport, where he is enroute to Ottawa after completing a week-long tour of midcoast communities.  The NDP Caucus and the party’s Federal Council are meeting in Ottawa this week to appoint an Interim Leader of the Opposition, who is expected to be in place by Friday.

Layton has recommended that respected New Democrat Caucus Chair Nycole Turmel, MP for Hull-Aylmer, serve as Interim Leader until his return.

Layton was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 and underwent treatment while continuing to work.  He had surgery for a hip fracture last winter and launched into the election campaign a few weeks later.  The cancer he revealed yesterday is unrelated to his prostate cancer, which has responded extremely well to treatment.

“Jack’s warmth and intelligence, and his honesty and connection with Canadians, have been incredibly important in moving our party forward to become the Official Opposition and all Canadians look forward to Jack’s return to the House of Commons,” Cullen said.