York helps Jack on his way

York University played no small role in forging the political career of Jack Layton, elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party on Saturday.

Quebec born and raised, Layton earned his undergraduate degree in politics and economics at McGill University in 1971. Then he enrolled at York because a favourite professor told him that’s where he’d meet stimulating political theorists.

One of them was Prof. Michael Goldrick, who asked Layton to help on Goldrick’s campaign to run for Toronto city council. By 1983, Layton himself was a member of city council. He had earned a master’s degree and was about to finish a PhD in political studies at York.

So enamoured was he of politics, Layton had abandoned a tenure-track teaching position at Ryerson. Apart from unsuccessful runs at the Toronto mayoralty and a seat in Parliament, Layton has never ventured out of municipal politics in 20 years – until now.

Though his father was a member of former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s cabinet, Layton says he has always been on the left politically. He is most concerned with urban issues, homelessness and a clean environment and recently chaired the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Since the New Democrats swept him into the leadership over five other candidates, Layton has been front page news and interviewed on radio and television stations across the country.