Olivia on the Hill: Duncan, Trost and Simms
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 Linda Duncan, Brad Trost and Scott Simms.
Linda Duncan is the NDP MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, AB, and critic for Western Economic Diversification. As a former Chief of Enforcement for Environment Canada, and a well-recognized environmental lawyer, she is very much looking forward to the results of this year’s Student Budget Consultation.
Duncan is always happy to visit schools, but is rarely invited as MLAs are often more geographically accessible and more often reached out to. She interacts with youth as frequently as she can, visiting youth during post-secondary reading weeks, and working alongside others during campaigns. When she does have the chance to visit classes, she asks them challenging questions and tries to teach them to be “leery of the ‘facts.’”
Brad Trost is the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt. Passionate about all things ‘Saskatchewan,’ he represents not only his alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan, but a fascinating mix of rural, urban and Aboriginal communities. He is willing to visit schools, but is very tentative to reach out to them for fear of coming across as aggressive or ‘campaign-ish.’
When asked about the dynamics in the various classrooms he has visited, he explained that the visits are organized by individual teachers passionate about civic education, and that carries over to the students. That said, there is a stark difference between the questions he is asked by rural students, who he says are concerned about agriculture and farming. Having grown up farming himself, he appreciates that students ask about the lives they know and love. Rural schools often ask him to send graduation certificates, which he does happily, a tradition that he hopes that his successor will carry on once the boundaries have changed. He explained that Aboriginal groups are usually very well-versed on band elections, but sometimes understand other levels of government less well.
Scott Simms is the Liberal 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 schools, including K-12, and 40 other schools. As far as he is concerned, his role in civic education is to communicate what he does: represent his constituents in the “best democracy in the world. I mean, my full time job is to wag my finger and hold the government to account!” When he visits classes, he often holds mock parliaments, and says that “the students always argue, they say that politics isn’t them, but if you’ve spoken out for something, you are a politician.”
Simms noticed that the knowledge-base of students has become polarized over the years: students who are keen are extremely well informed, but the rest are very out-of-the-loop. His explanation is that in days gone by, the television was the main source of news, and was on in the background, so most people were constantly exposed even if they weren’t paying close attention. Thanks to technology, we can now filter which information we choose to expose ourselves to.
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
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