Jack Layton’s tough climb to political success as leader of the New Democrats and sudden death just months after his party claimed the official opposition is a story known well by NDP supporters and critics alike.
It’s also the inspiration behind a Saanich student’s essay that earned national attention last week.
Emily Candell claimed first prize in A&E Network’s Lives that Make a Difference essay contest for her The Magic Beans of Love, Hope and Optimism, a piece that compares the life of Jack Layton to the fable of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Grade 11 student at Pacific Christian School first became interested in Layton’s story in the lead up to last spring’s federal election.
“I noticed that all he was talking about was for the people,” said Candell, whose essay was selected from nearly 2,000 submissions nationwide. “All he cared about was for the country and helping everyone and it was really inspiring. … It made me realize how much of a difference one person can make, just by speaking out and showing how much they care.”
Candell sees Layton’s two failed elections prior to achieving political success similar to mythical Jack’s quest.
“His political career hadn’t started off well then he just climbed the beanstalk really quickly and was at the top,” she said.
The life of Layton was the most popular theme for young scribes in the contest’s 15th year – one marked by entries that ran the gamut of topics from the experience of immigrating to Canada to the influence of pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. Layton’s legacy was also the most resonant with judges. The grand prize winner, Mary Faheim of Mississauga, Ont. took the top prize with her letter addressed directly to Layton.
Candell, the only winner from Greater Victoria in either of the junior or senior categories, plans to see the $2,000 cash prize that accompanies the honour either help finance her education – or an educational trip to France.
Candell’s English teacher, Jennifer Stewart, will also receive $1,000 to be spent in her classroom.
The Lives that Make a Difference Contest is aimed at fostering literacy and education through providing teachers with an additional incentive in the classroom.