Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Believe Him

But now, their leader, Jack Layton, has prostate cancer and is undergoing treatment for the disease. Neither he nor aides are disclosing details of the treatment but most cancer survivors will say that, whether its surgery or drug therapies, beating cancer can leave one feeling weak and in need of time for rest and recovery.

Today, in a scrum following a meeting Layton had with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the budget, I [David Akin] asked Layton if the battle he's fighting will weaken his or his party's resolve to vote down the government, if necessary, in a confidence vote. His answer:

"No. It will make no difference to the enthusiasm with which our party carries forward our mission which is to change the old politics that we've seen for so many years and try and establish a new direction for the country."

As cruel as it is to say it, if Jack fought an election in the middle of his cancer treatment it would become an issue: would you vote for a PM who might drop dead in three months? Of course he could say nothing else other than what he does, but Jack and the NDP will figure out a way to support the budget. And anyway it looks like the Tories will be offering up some pretty weak coffee in March, so as not to stir up too much enmity.


A reader said...

People don't "drop dead in three months" from prostate cancer.

You have managed to demonstrate that your classlessness is exceeded only by your ignorance.

Would it not equally become an issue that the most crassly partisan political party in the world, apparently, is prepared to exploit fear and ignorance in their desperate bid to regain power at any cost?

Give your head a shake.

Dr.Dawg said...

This is beneath you, BCL. Seriously.

bigcitylib said...

You don't seriously think it WOULDN'T become an issue, do you? Jack's staying on presumably means he can beat the thing quickly. Which is great. But do you really think it would be feasible to run a campaign in the middle of treatment? That's crazy. So: Jack's condition eliminates the possibility of the gov. falling over this budget.

Gayle said...

It's not feasible. I have two family members going through chemo right now. They started by saying it would not slow them down, but it is slowing them down.

To be honest, I think he should temporarily step down. If something happens that necessitates an election (poison pill in the budget for example) the parties should be free to force an election notwithstanding the fact Layton is sick.

I really feel for the guy, but his health has to come first and his party should be held hostage to that fact.

leftdog said...

wow ...

Marky Mark said...

Really, BCL, while prostate cancer does kill some, most are cured or live a very long time. The fact is we don't know what "treatments" he is undergoing. The use of the plural in media reports suggest that he isn't going for surgery, so that leaves radiation and/or hormone therapy as the most common non-surgical treatments, plus there are others. And with radiation there is a choice between implanted seeds and external beam therapy. I would imagine that the latter could be draining.

As a "public service" please check out this description of that therapy and look at this very informative site generally.

I suppose that if he were doing eight weeks of radiation treatment, five times per week, and an election were called during that time frame, he would not be able to run a campaign. I don't think it would affect a voter's willingness to vote for his party, but could affect his stamina for a cross country campaign at that very moment. There is a difference.

A reader said...

Chemo is not used as a first-line treatment for prostate cancer, most forms of which are slow moving and self-contained.

I wish your family members well, Gayle, but it does not sound like the same thing at all.

bigcitylib said...


I think that's the option my dad chose. In any case, YOU CANNOT run for PM with a serious illness like that; you can run HAVING BEATEN said illness. Which is why the NDP will avoid a confrontation this Spring, Jack will take treatments, and the party will be election-ready come fall, hopefully. Of course, they won't SAY that.

Marky Mark said...

OK let’s get this totally out in the open. He is sick. He needs treatment for his illness. Like anyone else, he ought not to be fired or demoted due to illness.

On the other hand, his illness will cause a temporary burden on his colleagues, as is usually the case. But if he were to step down, that would also have a huge effect, as his party would need to have a leadership campaign. What if Harper called an election at that moment? And wouldn’t that also inhibit the other parties from bringing down the government?

If an election were to take place while he was undergoing treatment, he could in my opinion still act as leader but probably would have to very much curtail his travel. (My father had external radiation and he continued to work, although he was not 100% for a period of time.) But he could have another member (or members) step up and be part of a travelling leadership “team” to run a national campaign. In fact, since in our system we don’t vote for a President but elect a Parliament, it would be a useful thing to do to remind Canadians what they’re really voting for. It would take us away from the “cult” of leadership and remind us we’re choosing among competing parties to set the agenda for a legislature and to form a government in that legislature.

RuralSandi said...

BCL, you could have put it another way.

Is Layton so insecure that he can't step down temporarily?

He does have a deputy - Mulcair...hmmm, that may explain it.

Marky Mark said...

Why should he step down? There is no evidence-none-that he has three months to live-and no evidence that he can't perform his job at this moment. If and when there is an election call, I'm quite sure that he and his party will figure out what to do.

A reader said...

Boy, you people really are unrepentantly toxic.

Who do you think recruited Mulcair, just for example.

I think what we're witnessing here says a lot more about the current state of the Liberal Party than it does about anyone else.

Jerome Bastien said...

I dont see why BCL should get scolded for stating the obvious. Regardless of what treatment Layton needs, running a campaign is simply not an option in the short term. And running a campaign with a deputy leader would severely hurt the NDP (or at the very least, it could severely hurt the NDP).

I think its clear that anybody who's not a complete douchebag wishes Layton a quick and complete recovery. But trying to label anyone a jerk for drawing conclusions from available facts is just another boring example of faux-outrage.

In this fractious parliament, things like this, unfortunately, have a very real impact on the political landscape. So I think BCL is quite right: no election this spring.

JimBobby said...

I heard a cancer specialist say that more people die *with* prostate cancer than *from* it. In many, if not most, cases, it is a slow developing cancer and people will often have it, even untreated, for many years during which time they may die from something else like a heart attack.

We simply don't know a lot of the details of Layton's cancer. He would have been imprudent not to divulge its existence but beyond that, its effect on his abilities is yet to be seen.

Also, we don't elect a PM. We elect MPs. I think Mulcair has proven himself to be a very worthy possible stand-in for Layton. Dewar's no slouch, either. There are other good people on the NDP team, too.

While Layton's cancer may well be an issue in an election, it could easily be a plus for the NDP side. Seeing the leader as an optimistic fighter, vibrant in the face of adversity, could deliver some votes. Colour me cynical but there would be some sympathy votes, too. From what I've seen in the polls, NDP support has risen since Layton's announcement.

One thing I think is certain. If any party chose to use Layton's condition against the NDP in a campaign, the tactic would backfire... badly. Think Bell's Palsy.

Frankly, I think Harper's weight makes him a serious candidate for a heart attack. Layton rides a bike and works out in a gym, as I understand it. How's ol' Iggy's ticker? My gal Lizzie May's sportin' a hip replacement. There are no spring chickens in the top ranks of any party.

Hot potato. Off limits. Drop it.


Ti-Guy said...

Serves you right for being so accomodating to the Dippers, BCL. One rogue speculation is enough to invite a mob of self-righteous scolds forever-poised to identify the most trivial of lapses and to denounce.

Shiner said...

If it didn't have any obvious impact on his ability to function, I doubt it would come up during an election outside of an editorial or two. No politician would touch it certainly.

Tof KW said...

I think what we're witnessing here says a lot more about the current state of the Liberal Party than it does about anyone else.

Wow BCL, when did the random thoughts on your blog become the official voice of the Liberal Party of Canada?

And give your heads a shake dippers, if there was an election call this spring Layton's cancer fight wouldn't be an issue with the public. That's not to say the NDP couldn't do it, but it really doesn't help Jack much when he needs to rest and conserve his energy. That's why he's co-operating with Harper, as neither wants an election now. The Grits really don't either, regardless of whatever individual MP's might say.

JB is spot on too, if (and it's a really big if) there was an election, anyone trying to use Jack's fight against the NDP would suffer badly.

BTW - about two weeks ago I called for people to watch for co-operation between the NDP & CPC on the spring budget. All bow before my powers of prognostication! :)

Marky Mark said...

If Layton is having radiation, and if it started already, the treatments will be over before spring.

If a leader were a woman, and pregnant, would anyone say that she couldn't lead a party during a pregnancy?

And FYI I'm not a dipper.

Ti-Guy said...

Wow BCL, when did the random thoughts on your blog become the official voice of the Liberal Party of Canada?

I particularly liked the lurid, florid "unrepentantly toxic."

Terry 1 said...

Mulcair would push layton out a window if he thought he wouldn't get caught. He's ambitious and he's toxic.

Tof KW said...

Mulcair is screwing NDP fortunes in the west with his support of the PQ the other day ...and all to court the soft-nationalist vote. That pretty much is pushing Layton out the window.

Why is Mulcair defending the PQ?

Oh yes NDP, we really should have an election this spring with Jack recuperating and Mulcair at the helm.

double nickel said...

Did someone just equate cancer with pregnancy??

Marky Mark said...

Yes I did. Since some want to engage in wild speculation without hard facts, and since it is assumed by some that all cancer patients are disabled to the point that they aren't fit to carry out their normal routines, why not assume that every pregnancy is a difficult one with life threatening complications and/or a need for bed rest?

double nickel said...

Um, I guess because pregnancy isn't a disease?

Marky Mark said...

Why do you want people with diseases to be treated like lepers in Bibllcal times? Not everyone with a disease is sick to the point of being disabled.

Ti-Guy said...

Don't spare the extravagant language, MM. Describe those who are treating the ill like lepers "unconscionably uncharitable and morally vacant."

Gayle said...

"If any party chose to use Layton's condition against the NDP in a campaign, the tactic would backfire... badly."

No one would ever do that.

I simply want Layton to win his fight against this disease. I can see how terrible it is - my uncle died from it so I have seen first hand what it can do. It is a reality that it would not be good for Layton to fight an election while he is fighting a potentially fatal illness.

Marky Mark said...

There is a difference between facts and assumptions. We know Mr.Layton has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and that he is undergoing treatments. That is all we know. Everything else is an assumption. It is the assumptions and not the clear facts that are leading to conclusions which really are purely speculative.

Cancer is not always a death sentence, especially with localized prostate cancer. Some treatments are debilitating, but others are not.

If you want to deal in cancer facts regarding PCA, in terms of concrete things like survival rates, you can check this tool. We don't have all the relevant data for Mr. Layton, but it you plug in some basic conservative data you will see an over 90% 10 year survival rate if his cancer has not metastasized.

So there is no reason whatsoever to believe his life is in immediate danger and we also don't know enough to conclude that he is undergoing treatments that would make it very difficult for him to carry out his duties. It really depends.

It wouldn't shock me if the NDP has a contingency plan for an election call when Mr. Layton really can't lead a national campaign, but we're not there yet. And frankly they would lose more time in going through a leadership campaign than they'd lose waiting for him to complete an eight week radiation treatment program, for example.

He's handled the public aspect of his diagnosis with dignity. This could and should be an opportunity for a western society to deal with te oddly somewhat taboo issues of illness and death without prematurely pushing an ill person off the public stage.