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Youth parliament fuels fun, debate

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The Manitoba legislative chamber is full this week and there's not a gray hair in sight.

More than 60 young people involved with Youth Parliament of Manitoba are getting practical experience in public speaking and debating.

"It's definitely been going really well. We're really happy," said Darren Haber, premier of Youth Parliament of Manitoba. "A lot of our new members have already been standing up and speaking."

Donned in business attire such as suits and ties, the would-be legislators under 20 years old have been debating topics such as international military intervention, cyber-security and marriage laws.

"I'm interested in politics because it really affects everyone in our society," said Haber. "It's really about creating a framework or a system which gives people the greatest amount of opportunity to do what they want with their life. I think that we are incredibly privileged in our democratic society to have the ability to elect our officials and really decide where we want our society to go and to create a system that is fair and just."

Although politics was the main focus, the young adults managed to fit in humour.

"My question is directed to our ever-absent house leader," said one of the representatives, as the house leader quickly jumped into his seat. The representative's statement was quickly followed by a mixture of laughter and heckling.

The friendly banter continued as representatives questioned each other on personal hygiene and their love of '90s music.

"In the past, there might be a lull in debate, but there's never been a dull moment here so far," said Haber.

The noon hour was also filled with inspirational speeches about passion and the pursuit of happiness, along with a touching personal story about family in Libya.

"I can't actually put into words all the things that Youth Parliament has done for me," said Alyssa Morrison, deputy premier of Youth Parliament of Manitoba. "It helps you with your public-speaking skills and your debating skills. It helps you find out who you are as a person and where you lie on certain issues and how you feel about things. They way you think about things. I think it's for everybody, whether you're into politics or not."

Youth Parliament of Manitoba continues until Friday.

seneca.chartrand@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2011 B2

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