Olivia on the Hill: Garneau, Benoit and Holder
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 Marc Garneau, Leon Benoit and Ed Holder.
Marc Garneau is the Liberal MP for Westmount-Ville Marie, and critic for Foreign Affairs, la Francophonie and International Trade. He calls his riding the “hub of educational culture,” as it boasts McGill and Concordia University, two prestigious Cégéps, Dawson and Marianopolis, on top of several primary and secondary schools. While he thoroughly enjoys giving civic education presentations to students, he is most often invited to schools for assemblies in the context of his previous profession: Garneau was the first Canadian in space.
Of civic education, he had this to say: “It fits my definition of my duty as an MP in my riding. My role is to convince young people that their vote matters; it’s not an easy task! We have to make it compelling, the environment, student costs, foreign policy, we have to find the ‘hook’ because young people are the most passionate of all.” It was his mother who planted the idea of becoming an MP in him, but it was when former Prime Minister Paul Martin called and asked him to join that he decided to give up his residency at the Canadian Space Agency, because he realized, and hopes that young people will realize, “[politicians] are the real decision-makers.”
The Honourable Ed Holder is the Conservative MP for London West and the (very recently appointed) Minister of State for Science and Technology. He has a background in the field of insurance, but his character is best summarized by the name of the group he founded at the end of his university career: Be Kind to People. Holder has a very diverse background in community service, a full directory of which can be consulted in the extended version of his biography on his website.
Holder spoke very simply about his interpretation of the role of an MP in civic education: listen, learn, and help share the non-partisan message of civic involvement. He says that he avoids making visits of a political nature to schools, vastly preferring educational interventions and attending certain ceremonies dear to him, particularly Remembrance Day and graduations where he presents the Ed Holder Citizenship Award.
Leon Benoit is the Conservative MP for Vegreville-Wainwright, Alberta. His civic education started at his very roots, with both parents informed voters, and having been in the farming industry, “you interpret the impacts of policy on a real-level, and so it’s no surprise that you get involved.” He suggests that while it’s “helpful for candidates and parties encourage young people to vote, you need to give them an opportunity to provide input!”
Extremely rural, Benoit estimates his riding to be composed of no less than 20 high schools, and anywhere from 60 to 80 elementary schools. That said, he has served his riding consecutively since 1993, and has communication and outreach to his schools down to a science; he holds a “couple dozen” school visits per year, but they are full-community events, often including local media coverage. He was very pleased to hear about the Student Budget Consultation, explaining that he has been holding his own similar consultations for years. Benoit says that he has seen a direct correlation between the election results and the schools where he has visited; he explains this phenomenon by the young people “going home and talking to their parents.”
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
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