Announcing the 2023 Jack Layton Prize Winners

This is the second year of the Jack Layton Essay Prize for a Better Canada.

Jack Layton, a proud McGill graduate, scholar, academic, activist, and political leader had abiding passions including the urgent need for action on climate change, an end to violence against women, economic and social equality, good, affordable, and liveable cities, and an end to homelessness.

Launched last year on the 10th anniversary of Jack Layton’s passing, the McGill University-wide essay competition for graduate students is designed to encourage emerging McGill scholars to engage —with similar hope, optimism, and passion—in the leading issues of our times.

In 2023, the competition centered around policies that can and should be adopted to address the urgent problem of the fast-rising cost of living. While all Canadians have been harmed by a wide array of rising prices over the past year, it is particularly low-and middle-income Canadians who deserve and require protection. Bearing this in mind, this year's essay prompt addressed the following questions: What kinds of public policies can and should be implemented to shelter Canadians, and is it possible to provide such protection without exacerbating the underlying problem? Can the Bank of Canada’s policy of raising interest rates to be relied upon to douse the inflationary fire and, if so, at what cost to Canadians’ livelihoods through higher unemployment? Should the government rely instead on more direct measures providing financial assistance to low- and middle-income Canadians and, if so, will this merely add fuel to the existing fire?

The panel of expert judges included Christopher Ragan, Nathalie Duchesnay, Leslie Fierro, and Brian Topp.

Several entries were submitted by graduate students from across McGill's faculties, departments, and schools, with diverse approaches to the problem posed. We're thrilled to introduce you to the two winners of this year's competition that have co-written the winning essay.

The winners are Abigail Jackson and Jimy Beltran, with their essay A tale of two bread lines: Rising inflation in a Canadian context. Both recipients are 2022-2023 Master of Public Policy candidates at the Max Bell School of Public Policy. Abigail holds a BA in International Political Economy and Business Leadership from the University of Puget Sound. Over the past four years, Abigail worked at Habitat for Humanity Chicago, where she gained extensive experience in nonprofit management and program implementation. Jimy pursued a BA in Economics and History at. St Thomas University. He now works as a Project Manager for an ag-tech company and has a background in process optimization, entrepreneurship, and product development.

"In the context of inflation, economic signals and the expectations they generate matter," Abigail and Jimy wrote in their essay. "This creates a tricky situation for policymakers, who must balance the need to provide immediate relief for those hit hardest by price increases with the need to walk in line with the Bank of Canada to reduce inflation expectations."

"The government has an opportunity to do better in 2023 by delivering immediate financial support for the most vulnerable Canadians, lowering inflationary pressures across the economy through temporary tariff reductions, and investing in supply chain improvements that reduce inflation expectations and boost Canada’s long-term economic growth."

The winners were announced at the panel event on March 21, "Should Canadians Worry About Inflation? Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?" with top economists. The essay competition and corresponding event are part of a partnership between the Max Bell School and the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation.

The winning essay has been published as part of our MAX Policy series; you can read it here. 

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