Olivia on the Hill: Braid, Young and Brahmi
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 Peter Braid, Wai Young and Tarik Brahmi.
Peter Braid is the Conservative MP for Kitchener-Waterloo and Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities. His political journey has come full circle, having worked for an MP himself as a university student! He views his role in civic education as an effective educator, particularly where the division of power is concerned, but also as the link between awareness and engagement.
While both ceremonial and educational visits to students of all ages are enjoyable, it has been in his experience that high school students are more likely to “talk about big issues.” Braid came up with a plan for visits with younger students: he starts by telling them why he became an MP and about the difference between his role during an election and as their elected representative. Then he splits the class into groups with one MP per group; their task is to come up with a piece of legislation which the ‘MP’ presents to the class and is voted upon. After this exercise, Braid opens the floor to more questions, and he says that the caliber of questions improves dramatically.
Wai Young is the Conservative MP for Vancouver South; a riding of 120,000 constituents in only 27km2, and home to no less than five high schools! By the time she was elected in 2011, she had worked in all three levels of government, as well as the private and not-for-profit sectors. She defines her role in civic education as a provider of information, education, and guidance, and says that her most useful tool in getting through to young people is making them understand taxes; admittedly, “not a pleasant thing,” but as a member of the Conservative government, she says that she often felt like “the mother who said no.”
While she recognizes her own essential role in civic education, she says that “the office staff are the real heroes,” since they engage in the ‘day-to-day civic education process.’ Young explained that instead of ending conversations where the assistance requested isn’t of federal jurisdiction, she asks that her staff work with her constituents regardless by redirecting their calls, and teaching them about the division of responsibility between levels of government.
Tarik Brahmi is the NDP MP for Saint-Jean. His Quebec riding is home to one Cégep, a Royal Military College campus, two public high schools, one private high school, and an English high school. He laments the lack of requests for visits from schools because “we (MPs) are solicited from all sides, but schools need only ask! My office has never refused them.” He rejects the idea of making political visits to schools, forcefully asserting that “I haven’t done any, and I will do none, since they are not yet voters, but students there to learn.”
Brahmi says that his most wonderful experience as an MP was an educational visit with students on a bus! He explained that one of the schools in his riding had booked a school trip to Parliament, but they had tried to reserve a guided tour too late, and were hoping that he would be willing to guide them. Instead, he went home the night before and drove to Ottawa on the bus with them, using his time with his captive audience to teach them all about Parliament, the history of democracy, and his job as their MP, and personally gave them a tour and QP pass upon their arrival. Brahmi is more than willing to repeat the experience!
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
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