Jack Layton.jpg
Jack Layton.jpg

NDP leader Jack Layton comes to UBC


Two years prior to the "Orange Crush", which would see Canada's first-ever New Democratic Party (NDP) opposition, I interviewed party leader Jack Layton at the start of his cross-country tour of university campuses. 

Originally published in The Ubyssey
September 14, 2009

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NDP leader Jack Layton comes to UBC


Two years prior to the "Orange Crush", which would see Canada's first-ever New Democratic Party (NDP) opposition, I interviewed party leader Jack Layton at the start of his cross-country tour of university campuses. 

Originally published in The Ubyssey
September 14, 2009

“Getting involved in the political process is essential, and I’m encouraging young people to take part in any way they can.”

This statement sums up the motive behind federal New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton’s cross-country tour of university campuses, which started at UBC on September 10.

In a town hall-style meeting assembly in the Student Union Building (SUB) Party Room, he fielded questions from students on a myriad of topics, ranging from Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, to youth unemployment, to Arctic sovereignty.

Layton spent the entire day at UBC. In addition to speaking to students, he worked out in the BirdCoop and had beers with students in The Gallery.

He described the possibility of an upcoming election as “charging” into one “for partisan reasons,” and said that “[he] was willing to work with other parties.”

“It’s not a matter of ‘propping up’ a government; rather, it’s making government work,” he said. When inquired about the possibility of the NDP eclipsing the Liberal Party as the official opposition, Layton turned the focus to the public, saying that “it was up to voters.”

The NDP Club organized the event. President of the club Andrew Astfalk was pleased with the reception.

“We only had two days to plan, and it was pretty successful,” he said. “There were people standing all the way to the back of the room. It’s great that there are people willing to come out to hear Jack speak.”

The audience was not limited to NDP faithfuls; students of all political stripes were in attendance.

“I’m not really a NDP person, but I’m here to gain a different perspective on social and economic plans,” said UBC student David Kim.

One of the key issues brought up was Canada’s role in global conflict. Advocating the undertaking of an UN-based peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, he called once again for discussion and talks, rather than a combat role. Meanwhile, with regards to Iran and North Korea, Layton said, “Canada needs to be active in voicing our concerns regarding human rights issues.”

In focusing on Canadian education, Layton reaffirmed a “national commitment to funding literacy.” When asked about issues students face, such as ever-rising tuition fees and funding cuts to student grants and loans, he spoke about plans to “establish a national post-secondary strategy in the style of Canadian healthcare.”

He also promoted NDP MP Niki Ashton’s petition against “narrow rules of granting agencies,” which focuses on ensuring student grants based on need rather than having “corporate influence” over education funding for business profit.

Finally, he reinforced the NDP’s perspective on social justice in response to a question on financial prosperity.

“Countries with the highest levels of social justice—the smallest gap between the rich and poor—are also the ones with the highest quality of life, education, health...they fit hand in glove.”

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Photo: Jack Layton, Leaders Tour - Tournée du Chef - Announcement - Saskatoon Rally by Matt Jiggins