Olivia on the Hill: Hawn, Casey and Hyer

March 11th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 Laurie Hawn, Sean Casey and Bruce Hyer.


Laurie Hawn is the Conservative MP for Edmonton Centre and the first Member of Parliament to be appointed to the Treasury Board Cabinet Committee without being a Cabinet Minister. Considering that he used to fly jets, most people will likely understand why he says that his current job is the “second coolest” he’s had, of which he says “it can be productive, and it can also be frustrating, but we all come here for the same reason. We agree on the destination, we’re just taking different roads.”

Laurie Hawn

While he has never missed a vote, his political engagement has been gradual, from avoiding being “overtly political” during his military years, to public service, and eventually, having grown concerned, he decided that “the time is now.” He floated the idea of a small tax credit for voting, suggesting that there are two ways to lead a horse, but being a believer in positive reinforcement, “I’d rather use a carrot than use a stick, but of course, you have to be able to afford the carrot!”

You can also visit Laurie Hawn’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Sean Casey is the Liberal critic for Justice, and MP for Charlottetown; the “best riding in Canada” (so he declares!). He sees himself as very lucky to have the benefit of both a small population and a geographically small riding, which includes two high schools, two junior highs, a rough dozen elementary schools, UPEI, and Holland College. 

Sean Casey

Mr. Casey is deeply concerned about the low voter turnout, particularly in youth, for which he assumes partial blame on behalf of politicians because “it’s our responsibility to make the case that it matters.” He recognizes that all sorts of problems stem from low turnout in specific groups, and says that if a group isn’t an optimal target for voter turnout in the ‘war room’ of political strategy, they run the risk of being ‘ditched’ and therefore becoming a ‘lost generation.’ He mused that youth have never been more vulnerable, and calls on media, politicians, and voters alike to make politics more “fresh and interesting.”

You can also visit Sean Casey’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Bruce Hyer is the MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, and Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada. He often refers to himself as ‘American by chance, Canadian by choice,’ having moved here in 1976 after a busy career in law enforcement and environmental activism south of the border. He has since thrived in a wilderness lifestyle, holding an array of different positions, but when asked about visiting schools to about civic education, he exclaimed “Please! Please invite me, I miss teaching!”  

Bruce Hyer

Mr. Hyer has a list of reforms that he believes will raise voter turnout: pass Michael Chong’s bill, ensure that there are two leaders for each political party, implement proportionate representation, and randomize seating in the House of Commons. He is also an advocate for lowering the voting age to 16, and asks youth to consider the following: “you may not like us, but we shape your entire life. You are going to inherit the world.” He suggested that like E.B. White, and like himself, young people might find it “hard to plan the day [because they] rise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.” His solution? Do both! 

You can also visit Bruce Hyer’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Rajotte, Rathgeber, Crockatt and Obhrai

March 6th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 RajotteBrent RathgeberJoan 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!”

James Rajotte

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.cacan.gc.ca, and by reading the backgrounder of bills so that they can quickly access correct information. 

You can also visit James Rajotte’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


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.

Brent Rathgeber

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.”

You can also visit Brent Rathgeber’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


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. 

Joan Crockatt

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.

You can also visit Joan Crockatt’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


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. 

 Deepak Obhrai

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. 

You can also visit Deepak Obhrai’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Weston, Davies and Mayes

February 19th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 John Weston, Libby Davies and Colin Mayes.


John Weston is the Conservative MP for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country, and proud father of three teenagers. He deems himself very lucky to be the “conduit, custodian of the most beautiful community on earth.” He manages his riding “without fear of favor,” which is to say that it doesn’t matter if you voted for him or not, and hopes that his presence helps to cultivate leadership.  


Weston does his best to support or attend at least one event per geographic, cultural, demographic, or issue-based “community” in his riding each year. Weston supports “Hey Day!,” an annual student-run volunteer and engagement fair, as well as an annual competition for grade 6/7 students in his riding called the MP Book Award to brand “good writing as cool!”

You can also visit John Weston’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Libby Davies is the NDP MP for Vancouver East, which she has represented since 1997. Her constituency office is often visited by students and teachers. She is very active in the schools in her riding, and they often receive packages of political odds-and-ends that her office collects for them. She also offers a scholarship to one student in each school who is recognized by the staff as a great contributor to their community. 


She is a strong advocate for more minority representation in parliament, and calls on those youth especially to become involved. Davies always strives to make politics, and more specifically committee work and the public service, real for people. She denounces Question Period and the portrayal of politics in the media as misrepresentative of the hard work done by MPs. 

You can also visit Libby Davies’ website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Colin Mayes is the Conservative MP for Okanagan – Shuswap, BC. He was elected as mayor when he was only 25 and completed his university degree by distance education upon the advice of the “hardworking people who had asked him to run.” He left office, and decided to join federal politics when his wife pushed him to bring his leadership skills to Ottawa.

Mayes is concerned that we live in a society where we are not politically literate, and is often incorrectly referred to as an MLA, and has even been introduced as the ‘Right Honorable’ (a title reserved exclusively for the Prime Minister). He hopes to help young people understand the challenges in governing a country this size, and won’t talk about which convictions made him choose the CPC as he calls on students to “do your own research, you can’t just vote like your parents do.”


He suggests that politicians are a reflection of the people that they represent, and while his faith is a huge part of his accountability, he believes that people are guided by different things, “none of which is more perfect than others.” It is his hope that young people will be guided by the spirit of service to uphold a virtuous society, by fulfilling their civic duties as well as enjoying their civic rights, and simply by asking, “why not me?”

Critical of the paradigm that “none of the political candidates or parties represents me,” Mayes has a very simple recommendation: get involved in the selection process of the candidate for the party which most closely reflects your values. It is through this process that you can mold the party in the image of your priorities and needs. 

You can also visit Colin Mayes’ website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia sur la Colline : Partie 1

February 18th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

Olivia Dorey, équipière de CIVIX, prend des réunions avec des députés fédéraux afin d’apprendre au sujet de la présence des politiciens dans les écoles et comment nous pouvons bâtir et améliorer nos programmes.

Le blogue d’aujourd’hui résume les visites d’Olivia aux bureaux de Charmaine Borg, Mauril Bélanger, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Guy Caron et Ruth Ellen Brosseau.


Je vous présente Mme. Borg, députée NPD de Terrebonne-Blainville. Son trajet d’éducation civique à été largement soi-guidé, mais elle est très heureuse de se compter diplômée de notre programme Vote Étudiant. Elle s’est engagée dans sa communauté d’abord en mettant sur pied une troupe de théâtre pour les jeunes démunis quand elle n’avait que 15 ans. Depuis, elle s’est engagée dans des rôles importantes chez les jeunes NPD et à McGill. 

Mme. Borg maintient un lien fluide avec les jeunes de sa circonscription en étant jeune elle-même, et en se présentant comme telle, et en « parlant leur langage ». Cette stratégie paraît être bien réussie puisque ce sont souvent des étudiants qu’elle rencontre, et non des professeurs qui la demande de rendre visite à leur classe. 

Charmaine Borg

Porte-parole de la jeunesse, les concernes et remarques de Mme. Borg sont particulièrement pertinente. Elle est très inquiète auprès de l’apathie de jeunes, particulièrement ceux des Québécois, qui ont vécu une validation de leur cynisme à la suite de leurs efforts concernant les frais d’études. Les jeunes sont encouragés et même poussées à devenir engagés, devenir des citoyens actifs, alors elle regrette « qu’ils étaient passionnés, ils se sont mobilisés, et il s’est abouti à rien ». Elle regrette également qu’elle a du mal à rentrer dans certaines écoles puisqu’elle est une députée fédérale, ou que les écoles craignent d’être perçues comme étant partisan. 

Depuis l’échec de la mobilisation des étudiants récents, c’est encore plus clair que la manifestation tangible des efforts civiques est élusive; Mme Borg a collaboré avec un groupe d’étudiants qui ont proposé un projet de loi, et l’a proposé en projet de loi C-486. “Je veux leur montrer que, puisque je le suis, les jeunes peuvent faire de grandes choses.”

Vous pouvez aussi visiter le site web et Profile parlementaire de Charmaine Borg.


Avant d’être élu député d’Ottawa-Vanier en 1995, M. Bélanger a travaillé dans le secteur privé et dans le secteur public municipal. L’année prochaine, il va fêter son 10e anniversaire avec ses électeurs. Il est champion de plusieurs causes, étant un Commandeur de l’Ordre de la Pléiade, Officier de l’Ordre du mérite de la République de Hongrie, et reconnu pour sa contribution au développement de la fraternité et de la camaraderie, mais il est particulièrement investi dans l’unité nationale et la dualité linguistique. Il considère que les rencontres avec ses plus jeunes électeurs est un élément fondamentale de son devoir en tant que député, et un qu’il accompli avec grande plaisir. 

Mauril Bélanger

En plus de la cité collégiale et l’université d’Ottawa, M. Bélanger estime qu’il à une quarantaine de Cégeps et écoles primaires et secondaires à s’en occuper! Il fait des visites environ une fois par mois, souvent arrangé par des professeurs qu’il a croisé dans la communauté et ont été offert son information et temps. Après une brève introduction, il entre tout de suite dans une période de questions et réponses avec les étudiants, ce qu’il estime est de le plus grand bénéfice et intérêt des étudiants. Il offre des drapeaux Canadiens aux plus jeunes étudiants, dont le 50e anniversaire va lui être un événement très cher. 

Vous pouvez aussi visiter le site web et Profile parlementaire de Mauril Bélanger.


Je vous présente Mme. Blanchette-Lamothe, députée NPD de Pierrefonds-Dollard, et porte-parole en matière de l’immigration et la citoyenneté. Puisqu’elle était enseignante, et entrain de faire sa maitrise en éducation au moment d’être élu en 2011, ses recommandations et commentaires avaient le poids d’expérience. Avant d’être députée, elle a travaillé dans le domaine de la réduction de la pauvreté et a enseignée à Kuujjuak, une communauté première nation au nord du Québec.

Je vous présente M. Caron, député NPD de Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques, et porte-parole adjoint en matières de finances et de commerce international. Pendant ses études, il à été président de la fédération étudiant de l’Université d’Ottawa, et par la suite, le président de la fédération canadienne des étudiants. Depuis, il a fait plusieurs emplois, et a eu des responsabilités diverses, mais il a fini par s’installer à Gatineau avec sa femme et son enfant.

Blanchette-Lamothe and Caron

J’ai eu une réunion jointe avec Mme. Blanchette-Lamothe et M. Caron, et leurs expériences étaient instructifs dans leurs similarités, ainsi que leurs divergences. M. Caron estime qu’il y a une cinquantaine d’écoles dans sa circonscription, tandis que Mme. Blanchette-Lamothe en compte environ une quinzaine puisque plusieurs des jeunes qui vivent dans sa circonscription font partie d’une commission scolaire voisine. Ils visitent environ cinq écoles par année chacun, mais M. Caron a plus tendance à visiter des écoles avec lesquelles il a des vieux relations, tandis que Mme. Blanchette-Lamothe envoie des lettres d’intérêt aux écoles. Malheureusement, elle dit que seulement la moitié lui répond. Elle est sympathique envers leurs horaires débordés, ce qu’elle attribue comme étant l’obstacle majeur aux visites. Ils sont d’accord que le fait d’être représentants fédéraux est un autre obstacle au Québec, ou les politiciens provinciaux sont souvent préférés. M. Caron cite aussi le manque de cours de civisme, puisque ce serait un point d’entré idéal pour des visites. 

Voulez-vous en savoir plus de Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe et Guy Caron? Veuillez visiter le site web et Profile parlementaire de Mme. Blanchette-Lamothe et le site web et Profile parlementaire de M. Caron.


Je vous présente Mme Brosseau, député NPD de Berthier-Maskinongé, et porte-parole adjointe de l’agriculture. Elle a un fils de 13 ans qui s’appelle Logan et qui est dévoué à la cause de ‘Le rêve de Shannen.’ Il a l’appui de sa mère dans son engagement civique, et elle fait tout son possible de faire intervenir des jeunes au sein de la politique, par exemple, ayant chargé une fille de 15 ans avec la communication; Mme Brosseau a souri chaleureusement quand elle a avoué qu’elle lui manque.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau

Son éducation civique n’est pas standard; ses parents l’ont appris a faire des réflexions critiques sur tout ce qu’elle rencontre, et elle s’est impliqué avec ses amis dans la politique, mais elle a humblement avoué qu’en 2011, elle n’était qu’un nom sur le scrutin. Doucement, mais avec force, elle a poursuivi le sujet « Ce n’était pas imaginable que je puisse être élu, mais c’était une époque spéciale. J’ai pour but de valider le résultat de l’élection de 2011 en 2015 ». Elle remercie le réseau de gens qui l’ont aidée pendant ses premières années, et que « il y a ceux qui se sont attendus à tellement peu de moi, que je devais révéler leur tort, je dois surpasser leurs attentes ».

Mme Brosseau participait dans la programme ‘Women in House’ de l’Université de Western, alors j’ai eu la chance de discuter avec Mlle. Cailie McIntosh, une participante du programme. Elle a proposé de prolonger la section de civisme du curriculum de 10e année de civisme et carrières en Ontario, puisque la majorité du curriculum ‘carrières’ est la composition des CVs, et cela appartient plutôt aux cours d’Anglais. Elle a choisit de suivre un cours de politique en 11e et 12e année, mais elle suggère un apprentissage basé sur la connaissance pratique et concrète. Mme Brosseau était très heureuse d’avoir la compagnie de Cailie, et c’était avec chaleur encore une fois qu’elle a remarqué que « nous avons besoins de plus de femmes d’intervenir, plus de jeunes femmes

Vous pouvez aussi visiter le site web et Profile parlementaire de Ruth Ellen Brosseau.

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Olivia on the Hill: Keddy, Kamp and Atamanenko

February 14th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 Gerald Keddy, Randy Kamp and Alex Atamanenko.


Gerald Keddy is the Conservative MP for South Shore – St. Margaret’s, NS, and Parliamentary Secretary for National Revenue and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. He has held a variety of political positions over his 17 years as MP, but is very committed to his life back in New Ross where he brought up his six children and  was the president of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia. 


When visiting schools, Keddy does his best to convey that you don’t have to be partisan to be politically engaged. Keddy sees part of his duty as an MP as helping to break down partisan barriers and says that “there are good men and women in politics, and they belong to all parties.”

You can also visit Gerald Keddy’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Randy Kamp is the Conservative MP for Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge – Mission, BC, and Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Oceans and the Asia-Pacific Gateway. He is a proud grandfather of twelve, and says that visiting schools helps other young people to realize that he “only has one head,” and that he is just a person who happens to be their MP. 


He doesn’t see his role as an MP as unique in civic education, stating that “if we expect people to get involved, anything we can do to personalize the process is good.” For example, he hand-writes back any hand-written letters that he receives from students. To help make the budget process real, he brings a bag of 250 quarters to classes to represent the 250 billion that the government spends, and he shows them how the budget is divided. 

You can also visit Randy Kamp’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Alex Atamanenko is the NDP MP for British Colombia Southern Interior. He entered the political domain by “just [getting] out there and letting people get to know me” and says that “it demonstrates the strength of our system, that both myself and the incumbent candidate were sons of immigrants who came from nothing and became MPs.” Having always been an educator himself, he calls for a regulatory program which, over the course of a student’s educational career, they become better informed citizens. 


He has many messages which might just take the edge off cynicism towards political institutions. At graduation ceremonies, he often points out that there are representatives belonging to each party in the audience, and that they would all love to have more young people involved. When asked about policy, he expresses his beliefs, but reminds students that though it is why he belongs to the party he does, it doesn’t make him right or wrong. In all-party-panels around election time, people become highly partisan, but “goes so far as to say that [student attendance at these events] should be mandatory!”

You can also visit Alex Atamanenko’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Easter, Donnelly and Mathyssen

February 10th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 Wayne Easter, Fin Donnelly and Irene Mathyssen.


Wayne Easter is the Liberal MP for Malpeque, PEI, and critic for Public Safety. Many of the students in his riding attend schools in Charlottetown, so he only has three high schools and four junior schools to tend to. He says that “he would never turn down an invite,” and that he really enjoys speaking to students, particularly young ones who have “no filter.”

Wayne Easter

Easter is very supportive of the Student Vote program, because “if you get involved while you’re young, you’ll probably stay involved.” His own involvement in his community started when he took part in a farm exchange program across Canada. His experience is a testament to the fact that it can take any form, but engagement is anything that makes you connect with the rest of your country and where you’re from.

You can also visit Wayne Easter’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Fin Donnelly is the NDP MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, BC, and deputy critic for both fisheries and oceans and infrastructure. It was on his family’s request that he made the switch from municipal to federal politics, even though he had been considering running for mayor of Coquitlam. He still misses being part of “the level of government closest to the people.” There are about 75 schools in his riding, ten of which are high schools. He spends his visits with them trying to educate them about procedure, and convey the opportunity and right to partake in the electoral process. He “always [tries] to inspire them, because there could be a future Prime Minister in that class.”

Fin Donnelly

He engages younger students through his litter-less Lunch campaign, and the older ones through issue-focused visits and Q and A sessions. He says that some of the most memorable moments of engagement come from peers questioning each other. Shortly after having won his seat in a 2009 by-election, a group of students concocted an organic pesticide, and bestowed Donnelly with a bottle for each of the party leaders; he completed their request, showing his students that the government is accessible, and that MPs are a vessel through which they can contribute. 

You can also visit Finn Donnelly’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Irene Mathyssen is the NDP MP for London-Fanshawe, critic for Seniors, and deputy critic for Canadian Heritage. She describes her riding as “urban, working class; a place where generations stick around.” There are 5 high schools in her riding, two of which host all-candidate meetings every election, and approximately 10 junior schools. Her own civic education and involvement was gradual: she had “very practical, straightforward” democracy classes in school, was later recruited by neighbors and became president of her riding association. She then became the first female MPP in her riding, and learned on-the-job by making a round of all the standing committees. It was on the request of Alexa McDonough, the NDP leader whom she greatly admired, that Mathyssen ran for federal office. 

Irene Mathyssen

All-candidates meetings aside, her visits are almost always educational, as ceremonial invites are conventionally extended to provincial-level representatives in her area. She sees herself as an approachable resource, and has a duty to remind students of their “responsibility to the democratic process both in their schools and in their communities, and that they have been giving a great deal; giving back is part and parcel of citizenry. Sometimes it is innate, sometimes we have to find it, but we all have something to give.” She calls particularly on young women to get involved, even if you think yourself an unlikely candidate; Mathyssen tries to bear in mind that “at the time, I didn’t see myself in it either!”

You can also visit Irene Mathyssen’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Duncan, Trost and Simms

February 7th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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.

Linda Duncan

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.’”  

You can also visit Linda Duncan’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


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.’

Brad Trost

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.

You can also visit Brad Trost’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


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.”

Scott Simms

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.

You can also visit Scott Simms’ website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Boughen, Foote and Stoffer

February 6th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 Ray Boughen, Judy Foote and Peter Stoffer.


Ray Boughen is the Conservative MP for Palliser, SK. He has an education-oriented track record, with over 30 years of experience in the field as a teacher, vice- principal, and principal. He also served two terms as the mayor of Moose Jaw, and had been planning to take a break from politics when he was suddenly asked to step in as a candidate in 2008. Boughen won and serves the families, teachers, and students of roughly 45 schools.  

Ray Boughen

Mr. Boughen’s approach to school visits starts with a great respect for the teachers who “live in those classrooms, so I’m not going to come in and run rough-stand.” He views his responsibility to young citizens as one of empowerment and encouragement in exercising their democratic right to vote. He is concerned that students are not taught the true value of that right, and aren’t taught the skills needed to examine that duty in light of local and international pressures. 

You can also visit Ray Boughen’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Judy Foote is the Liberal MP for Random–Burin–St. George’s, NL and Liberal Whip. Foote spent 11 years in provincial politics, many of which as the Minister of Education, before being elected in 2008. Her riding is extremely rural with an estimated 180 communities in total, 8 of which are isolated. She avoids taking helicopters to these areas, even though driving and ferries often takes days, because she says that it is critical that her constituents know that she “walks in their shoes.”

Judy Foote

Due to the geographic constraints to school visits, Foote has had to develop creative ways to stay in touch with the schools and students of her constituency. Every week, her office mails out hand-signed certificates of congratulation for various awards and medals received by her students. She rejects the expression ‘leaders of tomorrow,’ recognizing that young people are the leaders of today. 

You can also visit Judy Foote’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Peter Stoffer is the NDP MP for Sackville–Eastern Shore, NS, the Official Critic for Veterans Affairs, and repeat winner of Maclean’s Magazine Most Collegial Parliamentarian of the Year Award. He has been serving his riding since June 1997 and personally responds to every email, phone call, and fax that he receives. Stoffer says that “democracy is not a spectator sport,” and calls for citizens not to sign petitions, or send draft letters, but to instead write a short letter or make a quick phone call. He offers the following advice to young people from his years as an MP: put away your phone and be present; write down names, times, and quotes when dealing with important matters; second-guess secondary sources; and always, always think critically. 


Stoffer also offered some examples of exercises he uses for his school visits: 

  • Probing their principles: He questions students on why they are in class, who their three levels of representatives are, and what the single most important thing is to them with the hope that they will eventually come to reflect on these issues themselves.
  • Budget Day: He selects one student to represent the prime minister and five students to represent cabinet ministers. He gives the PM four quarters to distribute after the ministers have presented their case. The rest of the class acts as the media, which shows the pressure the government faces. At least one student every session recognizes the political solution: you don’t have to distribute the dollar in quarters. 
  • The Parent Trap: Send the students home, and ask them to act really excited and exclaim, “Mom! Dad! I met a politician today!” He asks the students to observe their parents reaction and report back to him. This allows him to keep in touch with students and, hopefully, dispel their stereotypes regarding politicians.

You can also visit Peter Stoffer’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Rankin, Brosseau and Poilievre

February 5th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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 Murray Rankin, Ruth Ellen Brosseau and Pierre Poilievre.


Murray Rankin is the NDP MP for Victoria and Official Critic for National Revenue and Pensions. He is a laureate of the University of Toronto and Harvard, and was an associate professor at the University of Victoria when he was elected in 2012. He also has a private law practice, and is devoted to the protection of the environment. 

Murray Rankin

When Mr. Rankin visits students, his primary goal is to open their eyes to the reality of being a politician. He had high praise for the teachers in his riding, claiming that “the best and brightest come to Victoria!,” and expressed concerns not about, but rather for his students; “I don’t care which party or which level of government they come out to support, as long as they come out. I think there is a great debt that we’re leaving to them…”

You can also visit Murray Rankin’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau is the NDP MP for Berthier – Maskinongé and deputy critic for agriculture. She has a 13-year-old son named Logan who is very dedicated to the cause Shannen’s Dream. She involves young people directly in politics, and once placed a 15-year-old in charge of her communications.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau

Her own civic education has been unconventional, and she continues to learn on the job each day. Her parents “taught her to question everything,” and she often discussed politics with friends, but she admits that in 2011 she “wasn’t supposed to win, but it was a very special time. I hope to validate my election in 2015.”

Brosseau was taking part in the University of Western Ontario’s ‘Women in House’ program when I spoke to her, so I had the chance to chat with student Cailie McIntosh as well. She proposed extending the Civics half of Ontario’s grade 10 Civics and Career Studies class to a full year course to provide students with a more practical knowledge base and understanding of government. Brosseau was very pleased to have Cailie with her, and she asserted that “we need more women, more young women involved.” 

You can also visit Ruth Ellen Brosseau’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.


Pierre Poilievre is the Conservative MP for Nepean- Carleton, and Minister of Democratic Reform. The idea for a child fitness credit came from one of his constituents, which he saw through to realization. His riding has a large population base of approximately 170,000 people and it is very family-oriented, so he represents a particularly large number of schools. While he hasn’t received many invitations to visit classrooms yet, he is very willing to do so. He frequently interacts with the youth of his riding who turn out to the roughly 150 community events that he attends every year. Poilievre is often impressed by the knowledge base of the classes that he has had the chance to visit. 

Pierre Poilievre

He spoke at length about his stance on civic education, and shared his own civic education story: in the 9th grade he joined the debate club and taught himself about political ideologies – a pastime he continues to indulge. As for his role in the civic education of students, he had this to say: “Politicians are biased, so there are limitations on how much we can objectively educate students about civic education. The inherent competitiveness of politics drives us to seek out like-minded individuals and to try to engage them, whereas it is the role of schools to provide students with basic fundamental knowledge of politics. I won’t pretend that I present a sanitized, political-science-textbook lesson; I answer questions honestly.”

You can also visit Pierre Poilievre’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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Olivia on the Hill: Charmaine Borg

February 4th, 2014 by Olivia Dorey

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. 

Last week, Olivia met Charmaine Borg, the 23-year-old NDP MP for Terrebonne – Blainville, Quebec.  Here’s her recap of the meeting:


Borg describes her own civic education as largely extracurricular and self-guided, although she was very pleased to have won her seat in the 2011 Student Vote! Her engagement began by founding a theatre group for under-privileged youth in her community when she was 15, but it has since taken many forms, including leadership roles in the young NDP and at McGill University. 

Charmaine Borg

While she now has almost three years of service as an MP under her belt, Borg says that she remains accessible to other youth, as she is only 23 and “speaks their language.” In fact, it has often been students that she has met who have invited her to visit their classes! Being French is of great importance to her, and the distinction between levels of language is very pronounced, unlike in English.

Borg sometimes finds it difficult to access certain schools and students in her Quebec riding because she is a federal representative, and because some schools don’t want to be perceived as partisan. MPs Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe and Guy Caron noted similar concerns when they spoke to Olivia last week.

Borg is worried about the apathy of youth, particularly in Quebec, who she suggests have had the roots of their cynicism validated by the outcome of the 2012 student protests. Borg laments that “they were passionate, they mobilized, and it came to nothing.”

She recognizes that it isn’t easy to imagine the tangible result of civic efforts, which is why it was so powerful to turn a bill proposed by a group of the students in her constituency regarding online privacy into a private members bill. “I am young, and I am an MP; I hope that this is proof, and inspiration for other young people to realize that they can do things of great importance.” 

You can also visit Charmaine Borg’s website and Member of Parliament Profile.

Stay tuned for more of Olivia’s meetings!

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