Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris has introduced a new youth initiative that he hopes will help reinvigorate interest in politics and civic engagement. Unveiled last Saturday at his New Year’s levee in St. Jacobs, MPP For a Day intends to bring some 16 students per year to Queen’s Park in Toronto to see just how the provincial government works and what some of the MPP’s responsibilities are as an elected representative.
“It’s going to promote youth leadership, give them the opportunity to participate in discussions made by our community members, and really get them engaged,” said Harris.
“I think there is really no better way than to reach out and give them the opportunity of experiencing what an elected official’s role is, and give them a real hands-on life experience.”
MPP for a Day will run from February to June and September to November. Each month, one successful Grade 6 or 7 student and one Grade 8, 9 or 10 student will go to Queen’s Park and be introduced in the legislature, attend Question Period, meet legislators, tour the legislative buildings and spend time with Harris. At the end of the day, participants will receive a certificate designating them honourary MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
To apply for the program, interested students must complete an application form available online, which includes several questions about Ontario’s political system and a 100-word short-answer response detailing why they would make a good MPP for a day. Students in Grades 8 to 10 are asked to provide an additional response explaining one thing they would like to change in the province.
Details such as permission slips from parents or organizing a parental chaperone still need to be arranged, but those should be ironed out in the coming weeks.
Harris said he made a commitment to engaging local youth in their community during the election last fall; this program will help achieve that. He cited growing concerns of a population that has become disinterested in the political process and hopes that this program can help reverse that trend. A record-low 49.2 per cent of all eligible voters cast a ballot in last fall’s election, and only 37.4 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 cast a ballot in the 2008 federal election.
“There seems to be a real gap in youth involvement, and I think this is a way to engage the leaders of tomorrow.”
For more information, go online to www.michaelharrismpp.ca to download a copy of the questionnaire, or visit the constituency office at 1187 Fischer-Hallman Road, suite 264 in Kitchener.