Read what YP Members across Canada think about their schools starting

As we know the start of this school year is unlike any we’ve had in recent years. The provincial government has been hard at work for the past few months establishing a safe return for all students. There’s no better way to evaluate how well the year is going other than asking two high school students for their honest opinions. This interview is with Vishwa Srinivasan, Parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance at Youth Parliament Manitoba who is in grade 12 and Wesley Yiu, Critic of New Member Relations at BC Youth Parliament who is in grade 12.

Can you explain whether your commute to and from school has changed this year due to Covid-19?

Vishwa: Well this year everyone on the bus is wearing a mask, they give you your number and you go to the corresponding seat, I am number 43. They load the bus back to front, everyone either sitting next to someone that’s part of their cohort or their sibling.
After a teacher comes on and gives us directions to get off front to back and be patient, each grade has our designated floor, you have to sanitize your hands once you get in.

Wesley: It’s definitely made me more hesitant to use public transport – which is usually my main method of transport back home. Although mask-wearing is mandatory, it’s not a rule that is often adhered to. As the current wildfire smoke means that cycling isn’t a viable option, I’ve begun transporting by car again.

What changes in the teachers responsibilities have you observed in the classroom?

Vishwa: Each grade has their own wing of the school so actually there’s not so much walking around which is nice to be honest but it means that teachers are walking around a lot so you stay in your wing and the teachers switch classrooms. Teachers are also monitoring the student lounge, each person has their designated space and like the classes are one hour and 40 minutes long

Wesley: In class, there isn’t too much of a significant difference. From what I’ve observed, the only additional responsibilities they have are ensuring that physical distancing guidelines are being met, whether it be in the classroom or the hallways.

What do breaks and downtime look like for you during the day?

Vishwa: The free time is study Hall now where you go to the lounge the student lounge and you just sort of sit at your own table at 6 feet apart. Before (the pandemic) you could be on couches and you can just do whatever you want. Now you’re allowed to talk and it’s not like you have to like do homework. You’re allowed to leave if your break’s last thing, if its first period you’re allowed to come late but second period you’re stuck in lounge.

Wesley: In my school, students only take one class a day, which means that my breaks are being spent at home at the moment.

How has lunch hour changed for you and your classmates?

Vishwa: Lunch is a little bit wonky; it happens during the last half hour of period two class and you have sort of alternate days between going to the lunch hall to eat a hot meal, or in your class the school brings a bag lunch for everyone.

Wesley: Lunch Hour is spent at home for the majority of people now. Some groups of friends still do go out for lunch, and I’ve been planning to do so with mine as well. In the beginning of the pandemic, we resorted to jackbox games and discord calls, although we have begun meeting in person more now.

Do you feel like your high school experience has been compromised because of Covid-19, or has Covid-19 caused this year to surpass expectations you might’ve had for a “regular school year”?

Vishwa: You can’t do much gathering in hallways, so definitely not the senior experience that’s for sure. Just regular old high school is classic high school, so I miss that because I looked forward to it. But I feel like it’s kind of cool that we’re going to be like one of the only senior classes as to deal with this. Sure, were missing out on stuff but like also like looking back on it overall, it will be cooler.

Wesley: Yes, I definitely feel that way. I was really hyped up for my final year of high school- as I finally had a solid group of friends who I could rely on and screw around with, and I found a club (Model United Nations) that really met all my interests. As Model United Nations is often conducted as an in-person, overnight conference, the pandemic has lead to the uncertainty of these clubs.

What are three things that are missing from your student experience because of Covid-19 safety measures?

Vishwa: Parties and gatherings with groups, especially for senior year. Secondly, being able to feel like the oldest in the school. When you are only around a small portion of your own grade you don’t feel the same way. Which brings me to my last “added element”, I miss interacting with everyone in my own grade. I only see those in my class or spare, and I’m the type of person to talk to everyone so I feel like I’ve never dealt with this new negative feature of school.

Wesley: Stress. Our school has split the year into four semesters now, with two classes per semester, which means that I’m only juggling two classes. As a result, I feel less stressed than I usually would at this point of the year. Opportunities. I had spent the last year actively participating in extra-curculars such as cadets and youth parliament, and gaining leadership experiences and positions within them- for example, I was supposed to go to Ottawa this summer for an Airport Operations Program. Due to the pandemic, these opportunities have been put on hold, and I am unaware of where things will end up. Socialization. This one is an obvious answer, I’ve been unable to see my friends often as physical distance regulations are upheld at school, and the fact that lunch is done at home.

What are three things that have been added to your student experience because of Covid-19 safety measures?

Vishwa: I find I’m getting closer to people I really care about since I’m only allowed to hang with certain people. Limited interactions have brought out who my friends are, who is important to me and who’s not important to me. Which is I think kind of cool I must say, it’s a new level of closeness. Second, I’m getting a unique life experience. I’m already dealing with adversity and change in my senior year, the year before college before everything becomes adversity and change. So, I feel like I’m getting a little taste of that unpredictable future.
The pandemic is giving me the time to let my brain realize some creative potential. In both artistic ways and also in like lifestyle ways, I’ve become resourceful.

Wesley: Time. As a result of literally everything being cancelled, I now have an abundant amount of free time, allowing me to relax, game, and of course, prepare my university and scholarship applications. This extra time has proven to be extremely useful. Summer School. I’ve never been able to take summer school due to my commitments during that timeframe. As a result of the pandemic however, these commitments were put on hold. As a result, I had the chance to take some courses early and get them out of the way. Unproductivity. With all this free time, it can be extremely hard to motivate myself, and this pandemic is proof of that. Looking back, there are lots of instances when I could have been a lot more productive- there were many days where I literally accomplished nothing. Now, I’ve still managed to procrastinate on work I’ve been given months to complete.

Wesley Yiu, Critic of New Member Relations at BC Youth Parliament, Grade 12
Vishwa Srinivasan, Parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance at Youth Parliament Manitoba, Grade 12

Winter Session day 4

During the past 3 days, we have had the privilege to meet and discuss with the members from the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties of Manitoba. During these meetings, members and ministers posed questions relating to each parties policies and political stances on environment, budgets and local issues. A common theme throughout the lunches were  how each party planned on balancing social and economic deficits. The party representatives also shared their personal stories detailing how they got involved in politics, and their personal priorities and interactions with the public. The representatives also gave heartfelt advice to members concerning their futures in politics and other endeavours, even encouraging the members to volunteer for their local MLA’s. This experience provided insight into how parties operate and how each member works within the party and in the community.

On Day 3 (or rather Night 3), a group of us young parliamentarians stretched our political involvement beyond the confines of the house. What was intended to be a quick, non-partisan, apolitical, game of Catan became a heated political drama. For those not familiar with the game, it’s goal is to stretch your civilization across an island, and gain control over its resources. Seven unassuming colours soon morphed into flags of Canada’s political parties. Green for the Greens, Blue for the Conservatives, Red for the Liberals, Orange for the New Democrats, Purple for People’s Party, brown for the Christian Heritage Party, and White representing the Bloc Québécois. Members, such as the red player, often represented parties with views contrary to their own. Every single move needed to be explained by a political rationale and each player filled the shoes of the party leader (often having fun with impersonations).  As well as being a fun way to spend a Saturday, it was also an effective way to empathize with different perspectives. Every one of us went to sleep with a lasting memory of friendship, fraternity, and fundamental disagreements.

Winter Session day 3

Today cabinet stepped back in multiple ways. We started the day with breakfast and conversation in the legislature, which allowed our ministry of labour a much needed sleep-in, with former MLA’s followed by a very candid question and answer session. The ‘bear pit’ is fantastic because we get a lot of nuance and honesty from the legislators which is sometimes difficult for acting members to reach. Most notably, the majority of the legislation that was debated was written at session by members of the backbench. “I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited to present my bill, or I was writing my speech… no one will ever know which” said Ana the member from Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound after her bill on eco-burial passed without amendment.

98th Winter Session day 2

As we got to know each other better, on this our second day at session, I had the opportunity to ask several backbenchers what they were most enjoying so far. Their answers, I’m sure, will surprise and delight. One member remarked that listening to the creative inaugural speeches of their colleagues. Another stated that sending and receiving notes in the house was a thrill. A final member remarked that seeing the bills final state after amendment was truly glorious.

First Day of the 98th Winter Session

Today was our first day of the 98th winter session. We had the honour of being joined in the house by Anne Thompson who was our first ever female Premier, although today she was graciously performing the role of clerk. This is notable primarily because she did so in a house that, for the first time ever, is led by an all female executive/board of directors. In our first question period Alexa (the Minister of Finance) was, rather cruelly, asked a multitude of fantastic questions on her bill. As I write our backbenchers are, with the help of the registrar general, hard at work on private members bills exploring a variety of topics. We are so excited to see what they have written!

Website Re-Design

Our website re-design was launched on December 15, 2019 to:

  • Make our home page more interactive,
  • Improve responsiveness on mobile devices, and
  • Improve navigation across our pages.

We’re always looking to make our website more user-friendly, so please contact us at any time with feedback!

Statements from the 2018 Mayoral Election Candidates

With the 2018 Winnipeg Mayoral Election quickly approaching, the Youth Parliament of Manitoba asked candidates running to be Winnipeg’s next mayor to take stances in regard to two key issues that are prevalent in our city.

First: It has been reported that 14% of non-Indigenous, and 35% of Indigenous Winnipeggers live in poverty, for a total of over 100,000 people living below the poverty line. Cities such as Edmonton and Calgary have recently taken mayor-driven action to reduce their poverty, such as transportation, housing, and employment reform. What are some actions you’d take as mayor to address financial disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, and the high rates of poverty writ large?

Second: The City of Winnipeg offers many services for youth, such as public swimming pools and skating rinks, Youth Action Centres, community centres, and library programs. What are some improvements you’d like to make to these services, and how will you prioritize the funding of these services in the municipal budget?

Below are the responses made by Brian Bowman, Don Woodstock, and Tim Diack:

Brian Bowman:

In regard to poverty:

“The Mayor has an incredibly important leadership role in working toward Reconciliation, which is part and parcel of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Winnipeggers. As Mayor I worked with my Indigenous Advisory Circle, in consultation and collaboration with numerous community leaders and organizations, to create the City of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord. The Accord is a living document to guide our shared commitment to the Journey of Reconciliation in Winnipeg. Through our work together, we hope to effect a positive change in Winnipeg through our knowledge and perceptions of Indigenous history, culture, and peoples, through understanding the state of the current relationship between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, and through creating partnership-based initiatives that recognize and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

As we grow, so too will our diversity and our need to ensure we’re building a more inclusive and city for all Winnipeggers. I am committed to working with a range of community organizations to reduce poverty in our city and improve the lives of all Winnipeggers. I acknowledge that poverty is complex and that poverty reduction can be effective only when all levels of government and community stakeholders work collaboratively. The City of Winnipeg, given its jurisdictional and fiscal limitations, cannot reduce poverty alone.

The City of Winnipeg tackles poverty on many fronts, including grant funding to numerous community organizations as well as the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation, and a Fee Subsidy Program for recreation and leisure for families falling below the Low Income Cut Off, all of which I continue to support. During my term in office, I supported multi-year funding to End Homelessness Winnipeg and the Community Homelessness Assistance Team (CHAT), and I will continue to support their good work into the future. I also facilitated the creation of an Unsafe Panhandling Steering Committee made up of numerous stakeholders, including those with lived experience, to connect panhandlers to a continuum of services. I recently supported a pilot project that will see Mother Earth Recycling divert discarded mattresses and spring boxes from the landfill and employ individuals with multiple barriers to employment. Finally, CentreVenture is currently accepting Expressions of Interest from non-profit housing developers to build affordable units at Market Lands where the former PSB and civic parkade stand.

But there is still more we can do. That is why I will work with the new Council on specific measures to further reduce poverty in Winnipeg and on introducing a new low-income bus pass. Moreover, I am committed to having the City of Winnipeg continue funding End Homelessness Winnipeg into the future.”

In regard to youth services:

“We are a growing city and we need a positive vision and balanced plan today for a future we know will impose greater demands on our city infrastructure and services. For many years, City Hall allowed infrastructure and services to languish and deteriorate. Over the last four years, we have been playing catch-up to compensate for those lost years. A stable, balanced approach focused on strategic investments will ensure that our city infrastructure and services are responsive to Winnipeggers’ needs and are no longer lagging behind. That is why, for example, we have invested in our city-owned public libraries, swimming pools, and spray pads.

Building and preparing Winnipeg today for a population growing toward one million people strong requires additional investment in community centres as well as the thousands of volunteers committed to running them. If re elected, I would increase the budget for the city’s existing Community Centre Renovation Grant Program from the current level of $965,000 a year to $2 million annually for five years. Furthermore, I have committed to working with Council and key stakeholders to identify additional funding for a new recreational centre in Waverley West.

I will also continue to support the $1,250,000 in grant funding provided by the City for the Indigenous Youth Strategy, important funding that supports community-based organizations that provide employment development programs to Indigenous youth.”

Tim Diack:

“I work as a police officer in the poorest postal codes in Canada. I am married to a WSD teacher who has worked with under supported children. I can go on and on about the horrible conditions I’ve seen children in. I also hear the “not my problem, who pays for that” people. Ok, I simply put it as “feed them now or feed them in prison” Blunt, not kind, but puts perspective to those who resist doing the right thing. Which is helping those with less resource. I have forwarded a proper breakfast program and paying teachers for after school activities.

Calgary’s pro-rated fees for public services. This is a structure I would like to follow. I would also fund a return of Police and Pal which would provide opportunity for disadvantaged, impoverished youth to experience things like scuba, canoeing, camping, sports, and other activities. This program was destroyed by the WFP twenty years ago and no one wants to volunteer since.

I’m not soft on reconciliation which is suggested when Indigenous ethnicity is referenced as a measure. I want this issue to go away. I want to know how to measure progress, no over representation in CFS, health care, corrections, and truancy. I want the suicide rate to drop. I want my grandkids to wonder why it took so long to fix it. As a mayor I’ll fix what I can and get the other levels of government; Indigenous Provincial and Federal to fix what I can’t.

This is a key issue for Winnipeg’s future. I’m a community police officer in Point Douglas. These programs have a significant impact on these kids lives. I’ve been inspired to run for public office because of my experiences with this issue.”

Don Woodstock:

“First, I will cut-off ALL corporate welfare. No more taxpayers’ dollars given to millionaires. Let them go to the bank and borrow their own money.

My first campaign pillar is – ending homelessness – A ‘Housing First’ action will be undertaken by my administration, which will see the Planning Dept fast-tracking all applications that addresses affordable, low income housing. Securing the needed funds for many projects.

The next pillar is “Sports Capital not crime capital” – this will see a $250-$350M annual investment in the core neighbourhoods for recreational centres, sports activities, music, arts, etc. as this is the one way that we will increase the outlook of the city from the investor’s perspective, hence business will grow, investment will come in, and jobs created. Safety & a robust neighbourhoods will bring investment. I want to our children playing hockey in an arena, then sitting in a jail cell.

The Final part of this is my Human Rights policy that all levels of employment at the City will be opened equally regardless of race, colour or creed, which is not the case today. I hope as the City leads by example – other businesses will follow.

When our core is healthy – our city will be healthy.”

We at The Youth Parliament of Manitoba are all very excited for the upcoming election, and hope these responses help readers learn more about the potential future leader of Winnipeg. Furthermore, we would like to stress just how important it is for young people LIKE YOU to get engaged and vote in elections. So get out there, voice your opinion, and make a difference in creating a better and brighter Winnipeg!

WCYP Has Come to An End

Western Canada Youth Parliament has come to an end. We had the pleasure of having the delegates from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta participate in our House! These last few days we went through bill presentations that led from chill to some heated debate. The bills presented were as follows: The Food Security Act and The Rights of the Dead are Dead Act. Both bills had a considerable amount of controversy but this is what invited members from the other parliaments to speak.

Western Canada Youth Parliament is special. It’s an event that happens once every 8 years in Manitoba and Youth Parliament of Manitoba couldn’t be prouder to host it this year. We commend our Cabinet and Exec on help making such an event come into action.

Signing off,

The Minister of PR


The Final Words

This is it, no more all nighters, or morning breakfasts with friends. All have gone their separate ways, and #YP96 is now a memory in 90 members lives.  During December 26 – 31, 2017, we learnt and experienced public speaking, parliamentary procedures, debate and about our province. We got the opportunity to  discuss worries and concerns that youth may have.  YPM had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch with The Liberal, PC and NDP parties. During these luncheons, youth are able to share and speak their minds to current and past members of parliament. YPM gives engaging opportunities for the leaders of today.

At session, one main attraction is the diverse group of individuals you meet. We all come from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints. We as individuals are attracted to people who are different and not like us, we’re intrigued.  Let me further this thought, we had members who enjoyed sports, video games, art, reading, one member was really passionate about recycling. She really encouraged us to recycle our soda cans, or to throw paper in the right slot of the garage bins. It is so encouraging to see young students who are passionate about situations, either that being animal rights or taking care of our precious environment and taking action.

Leaving YPM really makes oneself think about who they are and what they believe in. Even though we are praciting and debating mock bills, this exercise really brings out convictions of ourselves. Who would have thought, a politician camp was so much more than mere politics. It is a place where friendships begin and grow, where individuals can voice their worries, opinions but most importantly, listen to other youth. Listening is just as important as speaking. I urge members to come back, you will grow as an individual, you will not be sorry.

My first encounter of YPM was the 95th Winter Session. I went with an acquaintance that was really a stranger. As time progressed, that acquaintance grew quite dear to me. They would speak up in the House and my mind would be blown! The topics spoken and debated were absolutely outstanding, their convictions, morals and beliefs all contributed to the dabte. Once the 95th Session ended, we both applied for cabinet, and as would have fate had it, we became ministry partners. Without YPM, I can guarantee we would have not spoken to one another. Cabinet is an opportunity for others to come together in an unique way. To work with people you may have not gotten to know otherwise. To help create and make YPM a better organization.  Cabinet is a chance to give others a chance. I encourage all members to apply, you will not regret it!

Thank you again for all who participated in the 96th Winter Session, till next year my friends!

The End

December 30, 2017

Today is the last day of session, we say this with sadness and regrets but also with peace. this week was filled with excitement, joy, fear, nervousness, and laughter. As the 96th Winter Session comes to a close, we say good-bye to the Speaker who was apart of this amazing organization for 8 years. Farewell!

YPM Executive and Cabinet would just like to start off by saying thank you to all the backbenchers. Without you, we would not have had a wonderful and diverse session. Many of you came with fears of what would and could happen. Though now you leave with so many strengths, some that you may not realize that you have.  If you think about what happened this week, every individual is extraordinary. You come to a full house of strangers, speak in front of 50 or more people. Debate topics, that you may or may not have a clue about, or that you have never really thought about. You developed public speaking and communication skills. Your strengths grew, but not only academically, but in social skills.

During the 96th Winter Session, you have learnt friendship and community. YPM is a space that accepts you for who you are. You will always have a home at Youth Parliament for whoever you are.