This year is undoubtedly like none other, and this year’s Winter Session is no different.
We are one of the oldest model parliament organizations in the Commonwealth, having held sessions continuously since 1922. This is the first Winter Session to not be held at the Manitoba Legislative Building in all our 99 year history. We constantly work to educate and involve youth in Canada’s political system, aiming to help create the next generation of parliamentarians, community leaders, and active citizens. Despite this year’s Winter Session looking very different, great care has been devoted to translating the traditional aspects of session to an online format, making the upcoming session engaging and informative. Nina Lam, YPM’s Vice-Chairperson, shares:
“Despite this being the first year in our 99-year history that we’re not holding our Winter Session at the Manitoba Legislature, everyone involved has been working tirelessly to preserve the unique experience that allows youth to feel inspired, enlightened, and engaged with the activities and with their peers.”
Throughout the past century, generations of youth have come together year after year to discuss pertinant issues of their time, ranging from the legalization of alcohol, women’s participation in politics, and online privacy. Though this year’s session will not be held in the Manitoba Legislature, the organization is committed to continuing its consecutive record and providing youth with a platform to discuss their experiences and thoughts during this tumultuous time period.
While this year’s cabinet and executive are saddened to be away from the Legislature, we are optimistic that Winter Session will continue to be meaningful and captivating. We are looking forward to hosting this reimagined event and showing our collective dedication to promoting civic engagement and leadership, regardless of the format.
With a full moon, a blue moon, daylight savings time – plus the unprecedented events of this year – Halloween 2020 will truly be one to remember. Much has changed… but Manitoba’s love for fun and fright is strong as ever. Manitoba has kept the Halloween spirit alive with many haunted houses and corn-mazes for everyone to visit. With creative ways of safely celebrating being posted all over social media, spooky spirits were high this weekend. YPM hopes everyone had the best of times while staying safe this Halloween.
Youth Parliament of Manitoba is one of the oldest organizations of its kind. The 98th session made its mark on history as the first year that the membership elected an all-female Executive team. This event serves as an opportunity to acknowledge other female accomplishments from throughout YPM’s history.
Women’s involvement in Youth Parliament began in 1972, when eight women were approved to attend the 51st Session as associate members. After much debate, the “Older Boys’ Parliament” had voted against changing their organization’s name in order to accommodate their new female members, and therefore the women who attend this year’s session were not granted voting rights.
In the following year, women were granted voting rights within the newly named “Youth Parliament of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario”. This momentous step forward came after the women of Manitoba had created their own organization, “Women’s Model Parliament” of which there were 3 sessions.
The evidence of female success in “YPMNO” became undeniable when Ann Thompson became the first female Premier in 1979, just seven years after women were allowed into the organization. It was an honour to have Ann Thompson visit last year to witness her legacy carried forward by the all-female Executive team of the 98th Session.
Today’s Youth Parliament would not be possible without the collaboration and input of people of all gender identities.
Staying at home poses a plethora of challenges, and with the content pressure to maintain routine, productivity, and wellness, finding ways to relax and unwind can be challenging. YPM’s cabinet works hard to support one another as a group, offering help and guidance to one another. On an individual level we each have our own techniques for keeping ourselves on track. We wanted to share some of our Executive team’s favourite wellness practices in hopes that they can inspire others.
Our Premier Abigail Pudwill loves to put on jazzy bops and dance to shake off steam. Additionally, she finds that putting together creative outfits, painting and singing always cheer her up. Something Abby does to put her mind at ease while continuing her work is making a to-do list and numbering tasks off in order of priority. Knowing where to start is often half the battle, and so organizing yourself goes a long way.
Getting outside for some fresh air on the daily is a great way to unwind and connect to nature. For YPM’s Deputy Speaker Marie Sutherland, getting outside for a walk is essential. Even if she can only squeeze a short walk into her day, it always helps.
There are many ways to cope with stress, and the simplest ways of calming down barely require any exertion at all. Our Deputy Premier Nina Lam likes to get cozy by making a mug of tea and lighting a candle. Making tea also forces her to get up and out of her seat, which is important after being seated at a desk for hours on end.
It’s important to keep in mind that de-stressing is not a solitary battle: connecting with those around you is a great way to relieve pressure. Getting together with your friends and family over a video-call is a COVID friendly way of de-stressing and staying in touch.
We hope you found these suggestions helpful, and that you take some time out of your day for self-care!
The provincial government has been hard at work for the past few months establishing a safe return to classes for students, but it is clear that this year is unlike any other. 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 how 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 have you observed regarding your teachers’ responsibilities?
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.
Over the course of the last 3 days, we have had the privilege to meet and discuss with members from the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties of Manitoba. During these lunchtime meetings, youth parliament members had the opportunity to pose questions relating to each party’s policies and political stances on environment, budgets and local issues. A common theme throughout the lunches was 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 YPM members who expressed interest in pursuing political careers, even encouraging the members to volunteer for their local MLAs. 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 Settlers of Catan evolved into a heated political drama! The object of the game 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 justified 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.
Today cabinet stepped back in multiple ways, allowing backbenchers to have their chance in the spotlight. Backbenchers started the day with breakfast and conversation in the legislature, which allowed our ministry of labour a much needed sleep-in after days of preparing meals! Breakfast was followed by a very candid question and answer session with former MLAs and MPs. This session, dubbed the ‘bear pit’ is a formidable experience, because former politicians often answer questions with a high degree of nuance and honesty.
Furthermore, the majority of today’s legislation was written at session by backbenchers, allowing them the exciting opportunity to brainstorm, craft, and present a bill. “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.
By the second day of session, members got to know each other better, and friendships began to blossom. 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 they enjoyed 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 in their final state after amendment was truly glorious.
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 this year in particular, as this year’s board of directors/executive is comprised solely of women for the first time in YPM’s 98 year history.
In our first question period, the Minister of Finance, Alexa, was bombarded with a multitude of well thought out questions regarding her bill, the Healthcare Expansion Act.
Later in the evening, the registrar general, Marissa, guided the backbenchers through the process of crafting a bill. Members are now hard at work on private members bills exploring a variety of topics. We are so excited to see what they have written!