James Laxer (’60)
On February 23 2018, during a research trip to Paris, France, NT grad James “Jim” Laxer, suffered a fatal heart attack. A political economist, well-known intellectual and political activist, Jim was a professor in the Department of Equity Studies, York University at the time of his passing.
Born in Montreal on December 22, 1941 into a politically active family, Jim started his high school career at Oakwood Collegiate but after two years, transferred to North Toronto CI. He found NTCI a less militaristic and rigid environment and thrived in its learning environment. Those in his year will no doubt recall that he ran for president of the student council, narrowly losing to Peter Acker, a family friend.
After graduating from NTCI, he went on receive his BA from the University of Toronto followed by an MA and PhD from Queen’s University. While at university, he was active student journalist, first at The Varsity and later at the Queen’s Journal. In 1965, he was elected president of the Canadian University Press.
In the 1960s, along with economist Mel Watkins and others, Jim played a central role in founding the “Waffle” – a left-wing nationalist movement within the New Democratic Party. In 1971, he ran for the leadership of the NDP and surprised many by coming in second to David Lewis.
The Waffle was ultimately forced out of the NDP and briefly became a separate political party under the name “Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada”. In 1974, Laxer and others from the party were unsuccessful in their bid to be elected to the federal parliament; this defeat led to the Waffle’s demise and Laxer’s decision to concentrate on his position at York University and writing. To this end, he authored over twenty books on the Canadian economy, Canadian politics, free trade, the oil and gas industry and Canadian History. In the 80s, he also hosted a current affairs show, The Real Story and hosted the 1986 National Film Board series, Reckoning: The Political Economy of Canada. His essays and opinion pieces also appeared in many Canadian newspapers and magazines and for several years he was a columnist for the Toronto Star.
At the time of his untimely death, he was researching his next book examining Canada’s role in the Second World War. His teaching, writing, activism, concern for greater equality and the future of Canada motivated him throughout his life; he will be missed.