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Scandals may influence politicians of tomorrow

Some young aspiring leaders skeptical of system

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The Youth Parliament of Manitoba runs until Tuesday and has featured debate on social development and alternative energy.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Youth Parliament of Manitoba runs until Tuesday and has featured debate on social development and alternative energy. Photo Store

The Youth Parliament of Manitoba began this week and some of the 60 members, ages 16 to 25, have grown skeptical of their grownup counterparts.

The past year has seen one Canadian politician after another in the middle of scandal. The controversies involve politicians such as suspended senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, and mayors Sam Katz and Rob Ford.

Joseph Broda, who has been attending youth parliament for four years, said the parade of infamous Canadian politicians is causing youths to question government as a whole.

"We're from a generation that sees that there isn't a lot of forethought," said the chemical engineering student from McGill University. "There isn't a lot of effort being put into global climate change, we've seen economic recession, so just seeing people that are somewhat clownish in their behaviour just kind of points it out: Maybe the system we're pursuing isn't the best way to run our democracy."

It may be leading some of the young members to look for new ways to influence their world from outside the legislature.

"I'm more interested in educational jobs, such as being a teacher," said Lindsey Walker, Youth Parliament of Manitoba's minister of labour and an education student at the University of Winnipeg.

Walker said she used to be interested in a political career but has changed her mind.

"I put too much of my heart and soul into it," she said. "I would take things too personally. That's one thing I have learned about myself here."

Walker said the recent scandals might actually be getting more youths interested in how cities, provinces and countries are being run.

"I wouldn't say it's steering them away," she said. "Some people my age wouldn't care about politics otherwise. It's getting them more interested in it."

This interest, however, may not mean these youths are planning to run for an elected position.

"A lot of people tend to be moving more towards education," said Walker. "I think it's a trend in our day and age."

However, Andrew Jones, the Youth Parliament of Manitoba's premier, said the likes of Ford and Duffy aren't enough to scare away aspiring politicians.

"I don't think it's necessarily changed the perception completely," he said. "I think it's an important factor but I don't think it's ending anything."

Jones said there are politicians the young members can look up to, they just have to look close enough.

"We need to look past the sensational media this year, and look at the fact that there are lots of unsung heroes in Canadian politics," he said.

Jones said Muriel Smith, this year's Youth Parliament of Manitoba's lieutenant-governor and a former NDP cabinet minister under premier Howard Pawley, is one such hero and an excellent role model for youths interested in politics.

Still, Jones, too, doesn't see himself pursuing a career in electoral politics.

"I like just talking about politics and discussing it with people," he said. "I want to work in the education (of politics) as opposed to work in an elected office."

Debate at the youth parliament's session has included topics such as social development and alternative energy.

The session runs until Tuesday.

jordan.power@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 A8

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