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Illness won't affect B.C.: Expert 0

By Erica Bulman, 24 Hours Vancouver

New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton speaks at a news conference in Toronto, July 25, 2011. Layton announced he is temporarily stepping down to battle cancer. (REUTERS)

New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton speaks at a news conference in Toronto, July 25, 2011. Layton announced he is temporarily stepping down to battle cancer. (REUTERS)

Amid an outpouring of support for NDP leader Jack Layton, speculation was swirling Monday around who will take over the party's reins.

Stepping down as NDP leader to face his second battle with cancer, Layton's announcement came as a blow to the party, which in May became the Official Opposition for the first time in its 51-year history.

"My first reaction was a feeling of sadness and sympathy for Jack and (wife) Olivia, and what they're going through, and first and foremost we want to support them 100 per cent in the treatment that he's going to go through," said NDP MP Libby Davies, the party's Deputy Leader.

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix elicited Layton's long-standing fight with prostate cancer and his broken hip before the federal election.

"Jack is a fighter and I know he will take on this challenge with the same determination as he has every other challenge in life."

While a big blow to the federal NDP, experts don't believe Layton's absence will affect its provincial namesake.

The NDP made particularly large strides in B.C., coming a close second to the Liberals in the 2009 provincial election, with just 3,500 votes separating the party from forming government.

"What happens federally now with Jack being ill, and how the party regroups and performs, won't have much effect on the provincial NDP's fortunes," said SFU public policy expert Doug McArthur. "Right now, people in B.C. are focused on the contest between Adrian Dix, Christy Clark and now John Cummins."

Caucus meets Wednesday and the Federal Council Thursday to choose an interim leader.

Layton is recommending rookie MP Nycole Turmel, who has less than three months' parliamentary experience, as interim leader. McArthur, however, suggests the party should consider an experienced replacement should Layton's absence be prolonged. There's speculation one of the two deputy NDP leaders - Davies and Quebecker Thomas Mulcair, the NDP's Opposition House Leader - could be selected instead.


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