Jack Layton reached out to Canadian youth like no other federal party leader

Former NDP Leader Jack Layton leaves the stage at the party's 50th anniversary convention. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl …Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of Jack Layton's death.

As is often the case, journalists and the public alike use these kinds of anniversaries to look back and reflect upon the life of the deceased.

Depending on your political ideology, Layton was great man who accomplished great things or just a leader of a leftist party who happened to die while in office.

Regardless of your political leanings, however, Layton deserves credit for reaching out to young people — a demographic that has long been ignored by Canada's political leaders.

[ Related: Layton family draws strength from Canadians amid grief ]

Shortly after his funeral last year, student writer Robyn Urback wrote a compelling piece noting that she didn't support Layton's politics but respected him for reaching out.

"Despite being in his sixties, Jack was indisputably the best of the federal leaders at connecting with the nation's youth. He reached out to us despite our record of poor turnout at the polls. For this reason, Jack transcended party lines as a man who spoke to Canadian youths," she wrote for Maclean's On Campus.

"Layton spoke directly to Canadian young people through venues such as Much on Demand, encouraging engagement, interaction, and faith in the political system. And then, of course, there was his final letter to Canadians, in which he penned a paragraph specifically to Canada's youth, expressing his "belief in [their] power to change this country and the world.

"Political pandering is often a deliberate, pragmatic process, which is why so few politicians give youth the time of day. With such poor voter turnout among 18 to 25-year-old Canadians, other parties think it's better to spend the campaign retirement home-hopping than wasting an afternoon on a university campus. But for Jack, it didn't seem to matter."

Brian Topp, friend, confidant and colleague of Layton, says Jack's connection to youth was always sincere.

"Jack had a unique connection with young people, in part because there was something inside him that was always young, and in part because he devoted a remarkable amount of time to talking with, working with, mentoring and inspiring young people," Topp, who helped draft Layton's letter to Canadians, told Yahoo! Canada News.

"I think his essentially positive approach to public issues resonates extremely well with young people — who want to believe things can be better in the future, because it's their future. That opportunity still lies before our party."

While Layton's connection to youth didn't translate into a significant increase in youth voter turnout, in 2011, it was a start to re-engage a demographic that had been disengaged for decades.

Unfortunately, current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair doesn't have the same repertoire with youth that Layton did.

For that matter, neither do any of the other party leaders.

Layton's message to young Canadians in his letter to Canadians:

"To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world.

There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada.

I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future."

[ Related: 'Dear Friends': What went into writing Jack Layton's final words ]