Toronto-Danforth MP Jack Layton has taken a leave of absence as leader of Canada’s official opposition to receive treatment for a second undisclosed cancer.
However, Layton’s senior press secretary, Karl Bélanger, has confirmed Layton’s constituency office is still operating despite the fact he will not be physically present.
“(He) is obviously not able to be at work but the office is still operating and handles all the citizen’s requests,” he said. “From that point of view it’s business as usual.”
Bélanger complemented the constituency office staff and encouraged those with federal concerns to continue to contact the office.
“It’s a very competent team and we’re quite happy that they’re there to go through this period,” he said. “They are the ones who know the files, and they will deal with Mr. Layton when needed.”
On July 25, the 61-year-old politician announced that a new cancer had been discovered after a series of tests at Princess Margaret Hospital.
No information as to the type and severity of the new cancer has been released other than to confirm it is not in Layton’s prostate.
Bélanger said the party has been flooded with well wishes, with over 10,000 messages submitted through its website within the first 24 hours.
He added they have received thousands of Facebook comments and tweets, as well as flowers and cards at Layton’s Ottawa office.
“Mr. Layton is very touched and strengthened by the support from Canadians and his constituents especially,” he said. “No matter how they vote, or which party they support or where they come from, people are really pulling for him.”
Bélanger said he has no update on Layton’s current condition and that the party won’t likely be releasing any.
“One of the objectives was for him to really disconnect from politics and totally focus on his health,” he said. “We are leaving him alone so he can spend time with his family and rest.”
For his part, Layton has said that he hopes to be back as leader of the Official Opposition by fall.
“I’m going to fight this cancer now, so I can be back to fight for families when Parliament resumes,” Layton said.