Toronto City Council remembers Jack Layton


As the first Toronto City Council session since Jack Layton's death got underway today, a number of councillors once again shared memories of the late Toronto politician via a condolence motion that was passed at the outset of the meeting. Speaking last, Mike Layton spoke of his father's memory and thanked Toronto for the outpouring of support the city showed in the days following his death.

Here is a text copy of his remarks:

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First of all - thank you. Thank you to all Torontonians who showed such an outpouring of love and support. Thank you to my colleagues on council, to our city staff and to my staff, who worked late and volunteered their time to ensure his memorial was so special. Thank you also Mayor Ford, for making certain the doors of City Hall were open to all who wanted to pay their respects.

To my neighbours in Ward 19 and all the residents of Toronto, on behalf of my entire family, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Around every turn in the halls of this building, and across our city, I have been met with kind words, thoughtful letters or emails, fond stories of Jack's accomplishments, recollections of special moments shared in hallways, at pubs, in public meetings or in committee rooms. Always followed by a much appreciated handshake or more often a hug. For all of these private moments you have shared with me personally, thank you all. And please, don't stop. I will never stop enjoying hearing those memories.

Our family has been overwhelmed by the love, support and condolences we have been shown by everyone in our city and across our country. This has helped us immeasurably over these past difficult weeks. Words cannot express our gratitude. Your kindness to us will never be forgotten.

Thank you to the thousands upon thousands of people who contributed to the wonderfully fabulous public art project in Nathan Phillips Square. Your spontaneous creativity and kindness transformed this frequently apathetic building into an inspiration to all Torontonians and a symbol of hope for our present and future.

My family was moved at your commitment to commemorating Jack's life and work. The square truly was the most resilient celebration of his life, returning stronger, brighter and larger after each rainfall. This outpouring of support demonstrates the commitment to Jack's accomplishment's shared by the people of Toronto.

We have heard about many of Jack's accomplishments during his time at City Hall. Jack worked closely with many of you to create so many of the things that make us love this City and keep us optimistic for what it can become.

One of my first memories of his political life was at a Citizen's for a Safe Environment rally in the late '80s. I could not have been older than ten. We demanded that the incinerator, which had been emitting deadly toxins in the community for decades, be shut down and that the city rely on the three R's instead to divert waste, a novel approach at the time.

We won and that commitment resulted in the blue box system, leading our city to become a model for recycling and waste diversion. Then, we fought to reach 25% diversion, a goal we've long since surpassed. Today, we are all working towards 70% diversion of our waste from landfill. With continued support for the green bin and the many Toronto Environment Office programs, I believe this is attainable.

One of Jack's passions was ensuring affordable housing was available for all. He played a key role in the creation of affordable housing in Toronto. While a Councillor he worked to designate a portion of the Railway Lands for new affordable housing and as an MP he worked to secure federal funding to make this vision a reality. When 510 Bremner Blvd opens in late 2012, it will be home to some 1,100 people in 427 homes, including 166 three-bedroom homes and 48 four-bedroom homes on the lower floors. Jack believed strongly in our city's commitment to affordable housing helping to build healthy communities and ensuring families have homes.

As chair of Toronto Public Health, Jack championed initiatives such as establishing the Environmental Protection Office in 1987 linking the environment with public health, facilitating the creation of the Toronto Food Policy Council to help promote food security, and importantly, in 1988, the creation of grants for community groups to develop programs to help prevent HIV/AIDS.

Jack was a strong environmentalist. He was a founding member and chair of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, a city agency celebrating its 20th anniversary. He was proud to have built a new model for financing projects that brought environmental and economic sustainability to our city, a model now emulated in other municipalities. TAF continues to save the city money, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and support local entrepreneurial businesses at zero cost to our city.

Jack also worked with the Mayor Mel Lastman to establish the city's Environmental Task Force, which he chaired. Through this he helped create Toronto's first environmental plan and worked on some of Toronto's first energy and water conservation programs saving the city millions through efficiencies and saved infrastructure investment costs.

Jack would not want us to get stuck harking back on his life...for too long. He would want us to focus our attention in this chamber. Focus our attention on building a truly great city. On building a just city. A hopeful city. A loving city. He would want us to use facts and not threats. He would want us to use vision and not fear as the driving force for change. He would want us to set a new tone. He would want us to break down the barriers that are clouding our judgement and focus on getting things done right.

While Jack lived much of his life under a bright orange banner, many of you know his true passion was building consensus across political lines. Building, not tearing down. The new tone I think Jack would want us to take would allow for different views to be respected, with facts, not personality, framing the debate. The tone would have all members of this chamber voting in the best interest of their residents, our city and nothing more, without fear of retribution.

I ask that we begin to work tirelessly together to realize this ideal model. That we work together to build a city that leaves a legacy so that we can be remembered as Jack was and will be.

I would also suggest the outpouring from the public was a message to all politicians that we need to work to build the city, because the people will be behind us. Let us not settle for the mediocrity that ends up dismantling what is good about our city.

Hope is better than fear.

Thank you.

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