Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik July 26, 2011 - 10:21 am

NDP will soldier on without Layton: Saganash

"I was sad, but I also saw strength and determination"

JANE GEORGE
Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, who ran and won for the NDP last May, said the NDP caucus and council plans to meet this week in the wake of NDP leader Jack Layton's July 25 announcement that he would take a temporary leave of absence from the party's leadership. (FILE PHOTO)
Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, who ran and won for the NDP last May, said the NDP caucus and council plans to meet this week in the wake of NDP leader Jack Layton's July 25 announcement that he would take a temporary leave of absence from the party's leadership. (FILE PHOTO)

When Roméo Saganash, a member of the national New Democratic Party and MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, learned yesterday that Jack Layton is taking a temporary leave of absence to fight cancer, he was inspired by his party leader’s determination.

“I was sad, but I also saw strength and determination,” Saganash said. “Above all when your friend is sick, it’s sadness you feel, because, above and beyond being my leader, Jack is a fast and strong friend.”

Layton is credited with encouraging Saganash, formerly a well-known lawyer with the Grand Council of the Crees, to run in last May’s federal election for the NDP. Saganash won with 45 per cent of the vote, unseating the incumbent Bloc Québécois MP Yvon Lévesque.

Saganash’s victory in the riding meant that Nunavik gained its first aboriginal member of Parliament.

Tomorrow members of the NDP’s caucus will meet in Ottawa to discuss Layton’s departure and other issues. That meeting will be followed by a gathering of the NDP federal council.

Saganash expects the federal council to approve Nycole Turmel as interim leader.

When Layton stepped down temporarily as NDP leader Monday, he recommended only one name to take his place while he battles cancer, that of Turmel.

The selection of Turmel is being lauded as “brilliant” as an endorsement because it keeps the playing field level within the party, promising some stability over the short-term.

In May of 2000, Turmel was elected as the first female president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, after serving as vice-president for nine years. In her six years as PSAC president she led the some 172,000 workers employed by the government.

After heading Canada’s largest union and making a run at Gatineau municipal council, she, like Saganash, won her first seat in Parliament this spring in Hull-Aylmer, Que., just across the river from suburban Ottawa.

As energy critic for the NDP, Saganash said he would look forward to closely working with Turmel, “a very good” choice to lead the party in Layton’s absence.

Shortly after his election as MP, Saganash and other rookie MPs headed to Parliament until it recessed for the summer.

Since then, he’s been setting up his offices in Ottawa and Val d’Or.

While he hasn’t had time yet to visit Nunavik since his campaign brought him to Kuujjuaq, he plans on a visit in the near future.

When he was in Kuujjuaq, many people told him they had never met or seen their former MP Lévesque.

“I want to correct that situation,” Saganash said.

With files from Postmedia News

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