By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
One of the great joys of my 21 years in the Ontario Legislature has been meeting energetic young people who are interested in our legislative process and democracy.
As I prepare to retire as MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, I want to encourage local youth to consider some of the exciting opportunities to participate in Queen’s Park. In particular, I encourage students to take a look at the Legislative Page Program, the Ontario Legislature Model Parliament, and the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme.
Legislative Page Program
Elementary school students can apply to become a Legislative Page. Every year, 150 high-achieving grade 8 students spend four or five weeks at Queen’s Park to see first-hand how the Legislature works.
Laura Foell from Parry Sound-Muskoka was a page in the fall of 2019. Laura wrote about her experience at Queen’s Park:
My experience as a Page was amazing! I loved meeting all of the MPPs and I made so many new friends. Working as a Legislative Page was really fun! I learned a lot about how the Ontario Parliament works. Now when I hear the news about issues in Ontario I know what is going on.
It felt very special to be a part of the Legislature of Ontario. The Legislative Assembly is beautiful and filled with history. When the Legislature is sitting, Pages deliver all of the key documents to the Clerks, and deliver papers and water to MPPs and the Speaker. Sometimes Pages have to deliver to a Member’s office; it is really neat being trusted with that responsibility. All of the MPPs are really nice. The Pages in my term even got to meet the Lieutenant Governor and we were on the floor during Royal Assent (this is the final step in a bill becoming a law)!
Pages get to have lunch with their local MPP, it is a great experience and I really enjoyed spending time with my MPP, Norm Miller. He went out of his way to make me feel valued. Our Page Program teacher was also great. He taught us about the Legislature and took us on interesting outings around Toronto when the Legislature wasn’t sitting.
Coming from a small town, living in a big city for a month was a great experience! There was so much to do and see. I really loved being a Page and I would recommend the Page Program to anyone who is interested!
Applications open twice a year, and applicants must be attending school in Ontario. Currently applicants must be in grade 8 during their term of duty, and have an academic average of over 80 per cent. Applicants must demonstrate leadership, community involvement, responsibility, interpersonal skills, and an interest in current affairs.
For more information on the Page Program, please see this website: https://www.ola.org/en/visit-learn/programs/about-page-program.
Ontario Legislature Model Parliament
High school students who are interested in current events and Ontario politics can participate in the Ontario Legislature Model Parliament. Students learn how the Legislature works through a simulation where they play the role of MPPs and debate some of the biggest issues facing the province.
Laura returned to the Legislature virtually to participate in the Model Parliament last year. Here is what she said about that experience:
After the Page Program I wanted more! I was accepted into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s 2021 Model Parliament Program. The experience was fascinating because I got to ‘be’ an MPP in the Model Parliament and it was so great to experience what our MPPs do everyday after learning so much about it during the Page program.
Because of the pandemic, the Model Parliament was virtual. I met high school students that share an interest in politics from all around Ontario. There were 50 students and we were split into three different groups to represent different political parties in the Model Parliament. Each party had to discuss, amend, and debate a bill in hopes that it would be passed during the final debate days of the program.
There were multiple MPPs that took the time to speak to us, answer our questions, and even act as Speaker during our debates! I found the process very interesting because I got to experience the inner workings of our provincial government. Overall, I learned a lot, met some great people and had a lot of fun!
Applicants must be in grades 10-12, attend school in Ontario, provide one letter of recommendation and complete an online application form. For more information, please see: https://www.ola.org/en/visit-learn/programs/virtual-model-parliament-high-school-students.
Ontario Legislature Internship Programme (OLIP)
For recent university graduates, the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme (OLIP) provides the opportunity to gain valuable insight into the provincial political process.
This paid, non-partisan internship runs full-time from September to June, and interns complete placements in government and opposition MPP offices, write an original academic research paper, go on study tours to other Legislatures, and meet figures in public life. I have had 17 OLIP Interns work in my MPP office, and it has been wonderful to mentor them and introduce them to the daily workings of government. They have also been incredibly helpful in my work as MPP by conducting research for bills, writing speeches, and attending meetings.
Applications to OLIP open every year in December. Applicants must be a recent university graduate, be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and show an interest in Ontario politics. Alumni of the programme have gone on to work as political staff, public servants, academics, lawyers, journalists, and elected officials. One of the interns who worked in my office in 2003-2004, David Myles, was even recently nominated for a Juno Award!
For more information on this program, please see the OLIP website here: https://www.olipinterns.ca/.
Some say that young people don’t care about politics or the issues that our province faces. I have found the exact opposite to be the case. I have great faith that the leaders of tomorrow are passionate, intelligent, and hardworking. It is opportunities like the ones I mentioned above that lay the groundwork for youth to make a real difference in Ontario.
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
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