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Council to create connections with kids

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 17th, 2015

City councillors Florio Vassilakakis and Bruno Tassone met with SD 20 school board representatives last Monday during the board’s regular meeting to pitch an idea designed, not to bring youth into civic politics, but rather to bring civic politics to our youth.

“I thought Florio’s idea was an excellent one, and I thought it was very well-received (by the board),” Tassone said.

The idea itself is elegantly simple – to hold real, functioning council meetings at the high school during school hours to allow students to watch and participate in the proceedings.

“To create engaged citizens, you have to start from a young age,” said Vassilakakis. “It wouldn’t be a mock meeting, either – it would be a regular agenda with our usual business, but also addressing issues tailored to that younger group, so they’d have something to sink their teeth into.”

He said it’s a way to address a long-standing issue of limited youth engagement.

“Kids need to feel like they matter – and councillors are generally older and generally more disconnected from youth,” adding this is only part of his overarching plan to bring civic governance to growing minds.

“In an election year, I think it’s important that, instead of just having the one candidates forum we usually have, to host one in the school as well,” he said, adding civic politics is the ideal way to draw kids into political processes. “It’s not like federal or provincial politics, where they’ll probably never meet their representatives in real life. This is so close to home, so they can create an actual connection with the politicians, with people who are making a difference in their own communities.”

He said the potential is huge – another option would be to run a mock election concurrent with real-life ones, where the kids can do a secret ballot and see how closely the actual election results mirror their own choices.

Vassilakakis concurred with Tassone that the presentation was well-received.

“There wasn’t one person there who wasn’t positive about it,” he said. “Their job is to bring up educated and well-informed citizens – it’s not all just about math and science.”

School board trustee Mickey Kinakin said there are logistics to address, but he thinks the idea is exciting, not only because of the opportunity it would offer students, but because it creates a collaborative relationship between two levels of local government.

“There are a lot of things local governments can do together – anything that moves us that way is a good thing.”

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