Olivia on the Hill: Boughen, Foote and Stoffer
CIVIX team member Olivia Dorey is meeting with Members of Parliament to learn about the presence of politicians in schools and how we can build and improve our programs.
Today’s blog recaps Olivia’s meetings with MPs Ray Boughen, Judy Foote and Peter Stoffer.
Ray Boughen is the Conservative MP for Palliser, SK. He has an education-oriented track record, with over 30 years of experience in the field as a teacher, vice- principal, and principal. He also served two terms as the mayor of Moose Jaw, and had been planning to take a break from politics when he was suddenly asked to step in as a candidate in 2008. Boughen won and serves the families, teachers, and students of roughly 45 schools.
Mr. Boughen’s approach to school visits starts with a great respect for the teachers who “live in those classrooms, so I’m not going to come in and run rough-stand.” He views his responsibility to young citizens as one of empowerment and encouragement in exercising their democratic right to vote. He is concerned that students are not taught the true value of that right, and aren’t taught the skills needed to examine that duty in light of local and international pressures.
Judy Foote is the Liberal MP for Random–Burin–St. George’s, NL and Liberal Whip. Foote spent 11 years in provincial politics, many of which as the Minister of Education, before being elected in 2008. Her riding is extremely rural with an estimated 180 communities in total, 8 of which are isolated. She avoids taking helicopters to these areas, even though driving and ferries often takes days, because she says that it is critical that her constituents know that she “walks in their shoes.”
Due to the geographic constraints to school visits, Foote has had to develop creative ways to stay in touch with the schools and students of her constituency. Every week, her office mails out hand-signed certificates of congratulation for various awards and medals received by her students. She rejects the expression ‘leaders of tomorrow,’ recognizing that young people are the leaders of today.
Peter Stoffer is the NDP MP for Sackville–Eastern Shore, NS, the Official Critic for Veterans Affairs, and repeat winner of Maclean’s Magazine Most Collegial Parliamentarian of the Year Award. He has been serving his riding since June 1997 and personally responds to every email, phone call, and fax that he receives. Stoffer says that “democracy is not a spectator sport,” and calls for citizens not to sign petitions, or send draft letters, but to instead write a short letter or make a quick phone call. He offers the following advice to young people from his years as an MP: put away your phone and be present; write down names, times, and quotes when dealing with important matters; second-guess secondary sources; and always, always think critically.
Stoffer also offered some examples of exercises he uses for his school visits:
- Probing their principles: He questions students on why they are in class, who their three levels of representatives are, and what the single most important thing is to them with the hope that they will eventually come to reflect on these issues themselves.
- Budget Day: He selects one student to represent the prime minister and five students to represent cabinet ministers. He gives the PM four quarters to distribute after the ministers have presented their case. The rest of the class acts as the media, which shows the pressure the government faces. At least one student every session recognizes the political solution: you don’t have to distribute the dollar in quarters.
- The Parent Trap: Send the students home, and ask them to act really excited and exclaim, “Mom! Dad! I met a politician today!” He asks the students to observe their parents reaction and report back to him. This allows him to keep in touch with students and, hopefully, dispel their stereotypes regarding politicians.
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
Posted in Olivia on the Hill |
One Response to “Olivia on the Hill: Boughen, Foote and Stoffer”
Olivia on the Hill: Duncan, Trost and Simms | CIVIX Says:
February 7th, 2014 at 6:39 am
[…] MP for Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, and critic for Democratic Reform. He shares Judy Foote’s geographic qualms, having a riding of 30,000 square kilometres, which he estimates hosts 20 high […]
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