The Jack Layton Prize for a Better Canada

The Jack Layton Prize for a Better Canada

The Max Bell School of Public Policy is pleased to announce the second edition of a University-wide 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 last year on the 10th anniversary of Jack Layton’s passing, is designed to encourage emerging McGill scholars 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 2023 essay competition is about policies that can and should be adopted to address the urgent problem of the fast-rising cost of living. Such inflation is especially notable for the prices of groceries, home heating, and gasoline. 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 require and deserve protection. 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 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?

Submitted Essays Must:

  • define the scope and nature of the rising prices that Canadians are now facing;
  • identify the likely causes of this price inflation;
  • advocate for the use of at least three practical solutions that can offer protection to low- and middle-income Canadians; and
  • address the likely impact of such policies on the underlying inflationary pressures.

2023 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 2022

  1. The essay competition is open to any student(s) registered in a McGill graduate program during the Winter term of the 2022-23 academic year.
  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 February 15, 2023, 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).

  5. The winner(s) of the essay contest will be announced in late March of 2023.

  6. 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: No. The Jack Layton Prize is only open to current McGill graduate students.


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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