MAPS student spent two weeks as a legislature page

April 22, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Although interest of youth in politics tends to be quite low as a whole, there are those students who find themselves incredibly interested in government, law making, and everything involved in politics. For those who find themselves intrigued by Canadian politics, there are programs in place from the Government that allow students to receive first-hand experience of what the provincial and federal governments are all about.

The provincial program invites grade 7 or 8 students to serve as a Page for the Ontario Legislature at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Ranen Oomen-Danckert, a local grade 8 student at Mono-Amaranth Public School, was selected for the program, and spent March 23 to April 2 serving during part of the Legislative Assembly’s spring session.

“I’ve had a bit of an interest in politics since I was in Grade 5,” explained Ranen. “My parents told me about the program, and the third time I applied, I got in.”

The application process includes an essay outlining the students’ current achievements, involvements and their suitability for the program. Pages are then selected from across the province, where they often develop long-lasting friendships and spend time with students who hold similar interests to theirs.

Ranen had the opportunity to meet one former page who ended up pursuing a career in politics, and is still friends with some of the people he met during the program.

“MPP Monte McNaughton was a page in 1999 for the summer program, and he talked with us about some of the lifelong friendships he had made through it,” said Ranen. “He told me that when he left the program, he left with an enriched knowledge of how the Province is run.”

The program Ranen participated in was just under two weeks long, but the work that went into it was extensive. Pages are required to do a lot of studying, both of current policies, as well as memorizing all 107 faces, names, seat numbers and ministers’ ministries among the Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs), and the layout of the building.

During their term of duty, the pages serve as messengers on the floor of the Legislative Chamber, where they would meet key members of Ontario’s government and learn about the province’s parliamentary system of government.

“I really liked [the experience] and I didn’t want to leave,” said Ranen. “It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. I didn’t even realize how much information I was actually learning until I realized I could answer all the questions that I was asked. It was a really great learning experience.”

The students’ time at Queen’s Park is quite intense, with their days starting around 8:00 a.m. Pages are required to wear uniforms each day, and start by preparing for the morning’s debates.

Throughout the day, they are involved in a number of activities that include delivering messages and water for MPPs in Chamber, taking classes in legislative processes and math, and meeting with key legislative players like party leaders and the Speaker of the House.

“The uniforms were surprisingly comfortable,” said Ranen. “The hardest part was standing for so long and having to sit perfectly straight. Some sessions we were there for a good chunk of time.”

One of the things that Ranen found most surprising was the difference between the way the MPPs interacted with each other throughout different styles of sessions.

“You got to see a lot more from behind the scenes,” he said.

“We learned there is a big difference between how the MPPs act in a question period versus everything else. It was pretty funny sometimes how drastically the atmosphere would fluctuate; they would get incredibly heated and yell at each other during the question periods, then calm and collected during the other portions of the meeting.”

He found he was surprised by how much time the legislature takes to debate every Bill, and the amount of dedication that goes into it.

“Sometimes they would spend 10 hours discussing the Bill, even if it was on its second reading,” said Ranen. “It gave them lots of time to make up their minds, and to ask lots of questions.”

The Bill Ranen said was the most interesting to him was Bill 45, the Making Healthy Choices Act, which was debated during his time at Queen’s Park. The Bill looks at topics like e-cigarettes, making sure that there are proper labels on menus (and more healthy options), and whether e-cigarettes are actually helping people quit smoking, or with the increase of youth trying it, are training them to become smokers.

According to Ranen, the entire experience increased his interest in politics, and has him potentially considering pursuing a career in politics in the future.

“I definitely learned more about how the Province works and what kinds of things the parties debate,” he said. “It has made me want to learn more.”

He added that if he were to pursue a career in politics, he would want to look at working with the MPP in charge of the Ministry of Business and Finance. His experience didn’t, however, lead him to making a final decision in which party he would support were he allowed to vote.

“I’m still kind of deciding, especially with all the new things that I’ve learned,” said Ranen. “I’m a lot more in favour of the Liberals and PCs over the NDP and Green Party, but I’m not quite sure which one I’m leaning more towards just yet. I’ve narrowed it down to two, now I just need to do more research.”

And as far as the lack of interest in the average young person towards politics, Ranen added that he believes youth should get more involved in at least understanding what is going on and who is involved.

“I don’t think kids need to go as far as becoming political fanatics, but there is definitely a lot of discussion at the government level of the issue of getting young people to vote,” he explained. “Interest in it is an important thing. It’s important to know about things they do, because our education is governed by politicians. At the least, it would be good for youth to know more about politics than the party names.”

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