Young people do care about the future of this country
I attended the Barrie rally against the prorogation of Parliament on Saturday afternoon, and I have to say that I was truly impressed by the many messages relayed throughout the crowd, including the rally signs that read: "More Work. Less Spin," "Not Paid to Prorogue" and my favourite, "Hey Harper, if you can't multitask, let a mom run the country."
Twelve speakers addressed a crowd of a few hundred people about a variety of issues, including Site 41, civil disobedience, poverty and prorogation, senate and electoral reform, the ideals of democracy and the student voice.
As a student in the Laurentian University program at Georgian College, I was quite pleased to hear one of our own students, Chris Rutherford, address the crowd. I asked him after his speech why he believed it was important that students attend events like these, and Chris replied that it was important to "give a student voice, prove that we aren't apathetic, that we are the future of politics."
During his speech, Chris distinguished between voter apathy, which many claim is at the forefront of the youth voting issue, and simple disgust for government activity, or lack thereof. The solution, Chris believes, is to change the system, and the only way to do this is to get involved as students in the political system.
I approached several other students from the local Georgian College campus, including Keygan Ricketts, a political science student in the Laurentian program.
Asking Keygan why he thought it was important for students to attend this event, to peacefully protect against halting government, he said it was "because you see the disregard for our MPs, and for what our people want." Based on so many excuses, Keygan sees prorogation as taking away the rights of representation, and he, as a student, supports a change in our government.
A classmate of Keygan's, Elizabeth Nielsen, explained that she and her peers were attending "because we care. Harper keeps saying that we don't, but we do."
Certainly, Patty Coates, president of the Barrie Labour Council, believed in the same ideals, as she chanted with the crowd, "Yes We Care! Yes We Care!" She also discussed what prorogation means and how it bothers people from all walks of life, including the workers (some 222 seasonal employees laid off in parliament during this prorogation period, according to the MC of the event).
She asked the crowd rhetorically: "Who is working for the people of Canada for the next two months?" Of course, everyone shouted back similar, rather heated answers -- no one. Patty also posed the question of what kind of message this would be sending to the youth, suggesting that "prorogue" has become the new slang for slacking off, like her own son wanting to take a personal day from school or Coates wanting to avoid her 100 or so e-mails a day and to start anew.
I also had the opportunity to speak with the MC of the event, Don MacNeil, a local radio host. According to Don, "this government wants people's apathy. It is easy to get things through when the nation is asleep."
What we need, Don says, is a 1960s culture, not a culture of disenfranchisement, where young voters believe that their votes will count just as much as Don's and are willing to engage themselves in political discussion.
I asked the Liberal candidate from Simcoe-Grey, Andrea Matrosovs, about this issue of young voters getting out and participating in events such as the rally against prorogation. She had brought her daughter to the event, and having been a high school teacher years before, understands the common concern that young people face -- why bother taking part in politics, why bother protesting against the actions of our politicians.
According to Andrea, there is a message here at rallies such as this: One step at a time.
"Just keep going," she says, because there is a legacy, that, as students and as young people, we need to uphold.
Nicole Birch-Bayley is a third-year Laurentian University student at Georgian College, majoring in English.