Olivia on the Hill: Rajotte, Rathgeber, Crockatt and Obhrai
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 James Rajotte, Brent Rathgeber, Joan Crockatt and Deepak Obhrai.
James Rajotte is the Conservative MP for Edmonton-Leduc, and has been the chair of the Finance committee since 2008. I had the chance to sit down with him on the morning of Budget Day and share the results of the Student Budget Consultation to which he remarked that “I’m a little bit surprised, about their priorities about the debt, but not at all about their emphasis on education. I like their perspective about the job situation; it’s in line with our policy. I’m very pleased!”
He participates in the very popular Reading Week in Alberta, and does his best to keep his constituents, including the young ones, engaged through social media. He recognizes that a lot of content comes from the work of Parliament, and that it’s difficult to keep up with source documents. He finds it unfortunate that people often consume “someone’s perception of the bill.” Rajotte therefore advises people to educate themselves by consulting parl.gc.ca, can.gc.ca, and by reading the backgrounder of bills so that they can quickly access correct information.
Brent Rathgeber is the Independent MP for Edmonton-St Albert. He was elected as a Conservative member in 2008 and was re-elected in 2011, but resigned from caucus in June of 2013. He is always happy to make visits to schools as long as there is no scheduling conflict, and particularly enjoys participating in Reading Week and giving issue-specific presentations. He has recently engaged many university talks about his recently completed book, Irresponsible Government.
As far as he is concerned, being an independent in no way changes his role in civic education. He sees a general misunderstanding surrounding our political institutions. While he makes a very conscious effort not to overwhelm people with fine details, he tries to convey how the system works and how it is breaking down, which he says is hard because not everyone takes the time or even cares. Rathgeber says that “my generation is too old and set in our ways, so it falls to your generation to reform democracy.”
Joan Crockatt is the Conservative MP for Calgary Centre, a former political and business journalist, as well as synchronized figure skater. She won the by-election for her riding in November 2012. She has often picked up contacts with teachers through door-knocking and is very much looking forward to reaching out the students in her riding.
She feels very strongly about financial literacy and making critical-thinkers of her constituents; she calls on students to ask if “every time a politician talks about giving you something, have they costed it? Do you want to go into debt for that?” Her mantra is “people, planet, profit,” and is concerned that “we are mortgaging the future of our children.” Crockatt suggests that politics is all about finding and funding your passion, and encourages young people to think of the things that they really want and to find which party delivers them.
Deepak Obhrai is the Conservative MP for Calgary East, and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The journey to his long-standing seat as an MP started in Tanzania; the awareness that his country had become independent, he says, was the start of his civic education. He went on to study in India and the in UK, and came to Canada in 1977. He is a highly esteemed member of the Indo-Canadian community, and is devoted to African causes.
Obhrai has noticed a marked change in the number of invitations he has received over the past few years, but notes that his time constraints due to travel is also an impediment to reaching his students. When he does have the chance to visit schools, he starts with the Head of State, and works his way through the different levels and duties of government until he reaches the mayor.
Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!
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