Kids grill candidates with tough questions

If the Wolseley candidates running in next week's provincial election thought they were going to get cute questions and an easy ride from the kids at Art City, they couldn't have been more mistaken.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/09/2019 (1374 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If the Wolseley candidates running in next week’s provincial election thought they were going to get cute questions and an easy ride from the kids at Art City, they couldn’t have been more mistaken.

“Holy smokes… You guys are tough,” said Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, addressing a very engaged group of future voters taking part in Kids Can Vote, an initiative of West Broadway’s Art City.

Currently in its fifth year, Kids Can Vote teaches youngsters, mostly from the inner city and ranging in age from 6 to 16, about politics and how elections work.

This past week saw candidates from the four major parties drop in to the colorful art studio to “campaign” for their votes and answer any questions.

“I think definitely, the candidates come in and they aren’t expecting these kids to be as well versed in these issues or as interested in them as they clearly are.” – Pearson Singbeil Montgomery

“I think definitely, the candidates come in and they aren’t expecting these kids to be as well versed in these issues or as interested in them as they clearly are,” said Pearson Singbeil Montgomery, the 17-year-old Art City volunteer and creator of the program.

“The goal is to get youth engaged, to get youth learning about democracy and interested in it,” said Montgomery. “We want to get them wanting to vote when they turn 18, and to get the rest of the world to see that kids are active, engaged, and interested. Kids are powerful.”

Sure, some of the kids, primarily from the West Broadway area, were able to ask the candidates questions about their favourite TV shows or foods.

But more impressively, they also asked every candidate about their plans for helping homeless people and improving the health care system.

“The nurse cuts are really important to me,” Desmond, 14, told three of four candidates. “Three generations of my family have all been affected by nurse cuts.”

The candidates were tasked with explaining their positions and choices in a way that was understandable for all ages, but at the same time, didn’t patronize them.

“To do this job, you need to be able to see from a youth perspective,” said Mykie, 13. “It’s something that isn’t validated enough.”

Here, kids have the chance to lend their opinions, ideas, and experiences directly to the people who make these decisions for them.

“The nurse cuts are really important to me. Three generations of my family have all been affected by nurse cuts.” – Desmond, 14

As an example of how quickly things got serious, at one session Lamont and candidate Shandi Strong were initially asked, “Are you rich?” and “Do you live in a mansion?” which then progressed to “People out there don’t have homes. What are you going to do about it?”

In response, Lamont shared some his plans to establish social housing.

“If you get knocked down, we want to take care of you,” he said. “It’s really important, when you look at people who are living like that, that you remember that they’re human beings.”

The next day, candidate Liz Hildebrandt told the kids what the Tories would do about helping those who are in need of food. “There can’t be someone who does it for you,” she said, in trying to explain the concept of taking ownership and accountability. She shared her belief in the value of “teaching a man to fish, rather than giving them the fish.”

Lisa Naylor spoke to the kids on behalf of the NDP. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)
Lisa Naylor spoke to the kids on behalf of the NDP. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hildebrandt was asked mostly questions regarding health care and emergency rooms, and the candidate skillfully avoided answering them directly.

When asked by Connor, 14, if waitlists have actually gone down since closing emergency rooms, Hildebrandt responded with, “There’s so many answers to that question. The party I represent says they have, but the other parties say they haven’t. So it’s kind of hard to say. Studies say they have, but I will tell you from personal experience that I don’t know.”

After that convoluted answer, most of the kids stopped asking questions.

“I think that the kids could tell that they were not necessarily receiving answers that covered the question they wanted answered. I definitely listened to that, and I’m frustrated.” said Montgomery. “You can tell when a kid is satisfied by an answer or not.”

The next day, Lisa Naylor spoke to the kids on behalf of the NDP. She told them about what she does as a school trustee, and they discussed what can be done in the schools for them, and what they wanted to see happen.

She explained the party’s goals to raise the minimum wage, provide more housing, and open safe sites for substance use and more treatment facilities and how that might make playgrounds and walks to school safer.

“I think that the kids could tell that they were not necessarily receiving answers that covered the question they wanted answered. I definitely listened to that, and I’m frustrated. You can tell when a kid is satisfied by an answer or not.” – Pearson Singbeil Montgomery

When Desmond asked her about the nurse cuts, Naylor shared the NDP’s plans to reopen emergency rooms, and create spaces for the jobs lost. “The party I’m running with is a party that takes care of people. It’s a party for education and healthcare and housing and poverty issues.”

On Thursday, the last candidates to face the kids were Green Party leader James Beddome, along with candidate David Nickarz.

“I’m really excited to hear from you,” Beddome said. “You guys are the future voters, the future politicians, and that’s so important.”

He explained how global warming and climate change works, and emphasized the benefits of growing your own food and getting involved in the community to make change.

It seems the kids at Art City are more than serious about Beddome’s message about getting involved and making change.

city.desk@freepress.mb.ca

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