The Jack Layton Prize for a Better Canada

The Max Bell School of Public Policy is pleased to announce the third edition of an essay competition in honour of Jack Layton, a proud McGill graduate who went on to be a scholar and academic, and then an activist, and eventually a political leader at the municipal and federal levels.

Jack Layton had abiding passions—for the urgent need for climate action; for an end to violence against women; for economic and social equality; for affordable and liveable cities; and for an end to homelessness. Layton witnessed homeless people freezing to death on Canada’s winter streets, and that filled him with rage. He worked across party lines to try to do something about it, with some success—which filled him with hope. He was successful in his political career, leading the NDP to official opposition status in the 2011 federal election. He was, alas, not successful in his battle with the cancer that then took his life—leaving much still to be done. In a memorable final letter, Layton urged young people to carry on.

This essay competition, launched in 2021 on the 10th anniversary of Jack Layton’s passing, is designed to encourage emerging McGill scholars and policy practitioners to engage—with similar hope, optimism and passion—in the leading issues of our times. The competition’s prize of $5000 is provided by a donation from the Douglas-Coldwell-Layton Foundation.

The Essay Topic

The topic for the 2024 essay competition is about policies that can and should be adopted to address the problem of growing corporate concentration. The Canadian economy has long been served by small numbers of large businesses, but this concentration has been rising over the past two decades. The result is higher prices and less choice for consumers, lower wages and worse working conditions for middle-class workers, and greater overall income inequality. Such growing concentration allows businesses to earn higher profits at the expense of Canadians, safe in the knowledge that few rivals will chip away at their entrenched positions. Canadians deserve to live their economic lives in a more competitive environment where businesses must genuinely compete for consumers’ scarce dollars.

What kinds of public policies can and should be implemented to increase the degree of competition in the Canadian economy? Competition policy can be actively used to prevent new mergers, but what can be done to address past mergers that are now raising prices and harming Canadians? Are regulatory policies partly to blame by explicitly protecting Canadian businesses from foreign rivals? Are restrictions on foreign ownership ensuring that businesses are actually Canadian-owned, but leading to even less competition and more concentration?

Submitted Essays Must:

  • demonstrate evidence of the problem of growing corporate concentration;
  • provide an explanation for how such concentration harms everyday Canadians;
  • advocate for the use of three practical solutions to address the problem;
  • address the likely impact of such policies on the Canadian economy.

2024 Judges

  • Christopher Ragan: Economics professor and Director, Max Bell School of Public Policy; Member of the federal Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth; Former Chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission; Former Clifford Clark Visiting Economist at Finance Canada; Former Special Advisor to the Governor of the Bank of Canada.

  • Nathalie Duchesnay: Faculty Lecturer at the Max Bell School, Program Advisor at McGill Executive Institute, Strategy Lecturer at McGill’s MBA Program, Strategy and Public Policy Consultant, Former AVP Strategy at CN, Former Director of Strategy at SAQ, Former Practice Leader at Monitor Deloitte, Former Mergers and Acquisitions Strategy Leader North America Deloitte.

  • Leslie Fierro: Sydney Duder Professor of Program Evaluation at the Max Bell School, former Co Editor-in Chief of New Directions for Evaluation, Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, member of the American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation Policy Task Force.

  • Brian Topp: Partner, GT Public Affairs; Former Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley; Former Deputy Chief of Staff to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow; Executive Director of ACTRA Toronto.

Competition Rules for 2024

  1. The essay competition is open to any student(s) registered in a McGill graduate program during the Winter term of the 2023-24 academic year plus all past graduates from the Max Bell MPP program.
  2. Essays must be between 2300 and 2500 words in length and must be submitted as a Word file to this form no later than March 11, 2024, 11:59 PM ET.
  3. All references in the essay must appear as links, as in the style of MAX Policy and as such will automatically be part of the word count. No footnotes are permitted.
  4. Essays can be single-authored or can be written by a group of no more than three co-authors (all of whom must be currently registered McGill graduate students or Max Bell MPP graduates).
  5. The winner(s) of the essay contest will be announced in late March of 2024. The winning essay will be considered for publication in the MAX Policy essay series at the Max Bell School of Public Policy.


Q: Can a co-author have already graduated or be a student from another university?

 A: Only McGill graduate students and Max Bell MPP alumni are eligible. 


Q: Are BCL/JD students eligible to participate?

A: No, the BCL/JD is an undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Law. Graduate degrees in the Faculty of Law are LLM and DCL.


Q: Can graphs, tables, or illustrations be added to the essay?

A: Yes, a limit of three graphs or tables or illustrations can be added to the essay.



Please contact adriana.goreta [at] (subject: 2023%20Jack%20Layton%20Prize%20for%20a%20Better%20Canada) (Adriana Goreta) with any questions.

MAX Policy

MAX Policy is a collection of provocative ideas and policy solutions generated by the minds at the Max Bell School of Public Policy.


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