Olivia on the Hill: Brown and Calkins
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 Lois Brown and Blaine Calkins.
Lois Brown is the Conservative MP for Newmarket-Aurora, and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development. Also attending our meeting were Charlotte Smith and Julia Wilton who were participating in the University of Toronto’s Women in House program. Brown spoke very strongly about her stance on civic education and assuming the “responsibility to engage young people.” Her riding is composed of 57 schools, nine of which are high schools.
Many of her visits to classes are set up in a rather unusual way; when she meets young people in the riding, she offers them her business card and her time on the condition that the young person takes the initiative to set up the class visit and to introduce her. She says that this is both empowering and engaging for the student responsible and for the class as a whole.
Needless to say, she enjoys those class visits, but she is also deeply invested in having an ongoing presence in schools through a more ceremonial route. Each year, she sends a Remembrance Day wreath to four schools in her riding: one separate and one public elementary, and one separate and one public high school. It is her hope that by the time she leaves office, each school will have one of her wreaths as a reminder of “what their freedom cost… If they understood that – really understood- getting them to vote would be a no brainer.” That annual reminder, she hopes, will be her legacy.
Blaine Calkins is the Conservative MP for Wetaskawin where, in 2011, he was elected with over 80% of the popular vote, and just over 55% of the Student Vote. While reviewing the highlights of the Student Budget Consultation, he expressed concern that only six out of ten students believe that the government should place a high priority on environmental protection related to natural resource extraction.
He speaks very highly of his current workplace, dubbing it a “space of collective wisdom.” His own civic education started with paying taxes, grew directly and indirectly through his service as a public servant, and he eventually discovered Preston Manning, whose party he joined in 1996; only ten years separated his first membership and his election to federal office.
Having been a professor himself, Calkins thoroughly enjoys making class presentations. He uses his own 45 minute long, interactive PowerPoint to run the students through representation by population and the Senate, the nomination and election processes, a day-in-the-life both in Ottawa and in the riding, how bills are passed, the role of committees and caucus, the people and places of the Hill, the ‘cool’ parts of the job and, finally, how he balances it all. He calls on teachers to encourage their students to write letters to him about their concerns and interests, as he always hand-writes replies to “genuine, non-form letters.”
When he left University with his degree in Zoology, he says that he “would have laughed at you if you told me I was going to be an MP! I’m just a farm-boy from Lacombe who said I’ll come [to Ottawa] if you’ll have me.” As far as he is concerned, he has a leadership role in his community in educating constituents about their rights and responsibilities, and wants young people to know that “I often think, if I only had the confidence at 18 or 20 that I do now! You can do anything. There are no things I can’t do, only things I haven’t done.”
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
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