A look back on the 89th Parliament

In less than a week, the directors of the 89th Youth Parliament of Manitoba will complete their one-year term, thereby making way for the board of the 90th Parliament. For me, the outgoing Speaker, this means a bittersweet goodbye as I welcome a new generation of youth parliamentarians after an incredible seven years. Where the time has gone, I have no idea.

Since my first day as a backbencher at the 82nd Winter Session, I have witnessed so many organizational changes. When I hear the stories of our alumni, who have long since moved on from their days as youth parliamentarians, I cannot help but marvel at the ongoing evolutions of this Manitoban institution over the last nine decades. This past year was no exception.

Much of our administrative focus in the early stages of the 89th Parliament revolved around our role as hosts of the 14th biennial Western Canada Youth Parliament. Manitoba hosts this event once every eight years, and 2010 was our turn. Over the May long weekend, about 60 young people from across Western Canada met to debate in the Manitoba Legislature, share stories and ideas on our mutual youth parliament experiences, and of course make some new friends. In all, we could not have asked for a more successful session as all in attendance had a memorable and enjoyable time.

Also in May, we hosted our 3rd Annual Speaker’s Night at the Radisson Hotel Winnipeg Downtown. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy delivered the keynote address as our Alumni Achievement Award honouree for 2009.

Next came time to appoint our Cabinet and begin meetings leading up to Winter Session. To name but a few of our initiatives and taskings last fall, we drafted six innovative and timely bills, established the Alumni Society, attended and hosted numerous community events, and established this blog at long last. The 89th Winter Session in itself was truly a remarkable event.

I would like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you who supported us through these efforts.  Youth Parliament of Manitoba has a truly vibrant community of supporters. Please continue to follow YPM online through the website, Twitter, Facebook, or “The Youth Parliamentarian” as our members bring you all our latest news.

The Yeas and Nays Have It

Today marked the second last day of our session, and the third reading and concurrence of both the Democratic Renewal Act, the Personal Liberty Act, Natural Resource Management Act, and the Family Law Act. There was fierce debate on all of the bills and the votes all required standing votes for they were so close.

The members felt that in the Democratic Renewal Act (written by the Minister of Human Resources, Maarit Tymchyshyn) the punishment did not fit the crime, and it violated Canadians fundmental rights by instituting mandatory voting with a punishment of having their citizenship taken away for offenders. It was defeated with 26 votes against the bill, 19 for the bill, and one abstention.

The members of the house, in a shockingly libertarian debate, felt that the Personal Liberty Act (written by the Registrar General, Andrew Jones) was a fine example of the freedoms which all Canadians should be able to enjoy. They voted to pass the act which would legalize victimless crimes such as prostitution, drug use, and indecent exposure that do not negatively affect the public. It was passed with 28 votes for the bill, 17 against it, and 2 abstentions.

The Natural Resource Act (written by the Minister of Finance, Brent Hardy), which insisted that all Canadian companies institute eco-friendly initiatives if they are concerned with our natural resources. Successful companies would be rewarded with tax cuts, and companies who could not follow these regulations would be fined or even shut down for repeated infractions. The bill was passed with 32 for it, 15 against it, and 2 abstentions.

The Family Law Act (written by the Minister of Labour, Janelle Roche) would rework the family law system by making children have a stronger voice in the Canadian court system in reference to custody battles and wards of state. The members voted for this bill with 32 in favour, 11 against, and 4 abstentions.

Today, being the last second day of debate, was a full day containing great progress. Tomorrow will see the third reading and concurrence of the final two bills of 89th Youth Parliament of Manitoba. Check back tomorrow for the final post for this year’s Winter Session as well as the results of the election for the 90th Youth Parliament of Manitoba. Stay tuned!

7th Annual Bear Pit a Roaring Success

The Youth Parliament of Manitoba continued its 89th Winter Session today, but the most exciting part of the day came when our youth parliamentarians had the opportunity to participate in the Bear Pit and Reception with former members of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.

Besides current session members, family, friends and alumni of YPM, former MLAs and Speaker George Hickes attended the evening event. Such guests included Reg Alcock, Clif Evans, Marty Dolin, Harry Schellenberg, Myrna Phillips, Al Mackling, Howard Pawley, Jack Reimer, Reg Alcock and Darren Praznik.

The evening began with a welcome from the Co-Ministers of Alumni Affairs, and the announcement of the annual MLA Essay Contest worth $500. Harry Schellenberg stated that the intent of the essay contest is “to explore and promote the world of politics.”

The next item on the evening’s agenda were the YPM Senate elects, which saw the appointment of three YPM alumni to the senate . The new senators include Paul Taylor (79th – 83rd sessions), Tynne Petrowski (82nd – 86th sessions), and Amy Dhillon (80th – 88th sessions). The appointment of YPM senators is based on their history of longterm commitment to the organization.

Another award that was presented at today’s Bear Pit was the Educator Appreciation Award. This year’s presentation was made by House Leader Alyssa Morrison and was presented to Ed Dow, a history teacher from Stonewall Collegiate in Stonewall, Manitoba. Mr. Dow’s longtime support and recruitment of his history students for YPM made him an excellent recipient for this year’s award. Unfortunately he could not be there to accept the award himself but sent his regards.

The final presentation of the evening was the Alumni Achievement Award. This presentation was made by YPM Speaker Jennifer Pawluk, and this year’s recipient was Darren Praznik (54th – 62nd sessions). Mr. Praznik was recognized for his achievements both in YPM and in his own personal political career as a Manitoba MLA.

Finally, the long-awaited “Q and A” portion of this year’s Bear Pit began; as Reg Alcock, Darren Praznik and Howard Pawley were questioned on a range of topics such as northern Manitoban reserves, voter apathy and mandatory voting, their personal and public lives, and what they felt were their greatest achievements.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from this year’s Bear Pit.

On the public life of a politician:

“If you’re interested in public life, get a mentor.” –  Darren Praznik

On bettering society:

“We will marshall an enthusiasm, an enthusiasm leading us towards a better world.” – Howard Pawley

On obtaining political aspirations:

“You don’t ask for power, you go get it.” – Reg Alcock

On creating positive change:

“We must initiate strong activist action.” – Howard Pawley

On education:

“Education is the greatest raiser of people…. It is with education that we raise our lives.” – Darren Praznik

On our collective Canadian future:

“You cannot build a country and move it forward if you have many grievances” – Darren Praznik

On the hierarchy of life:

“Within systems where there are people with higher positions; it’s not because they are brighter… it’s because they are able to see more.” – Reg Alcock

Overall, the Ministry of Alumni Affairs are proud to call this Bear Pit and reception a great success. After the Q and A was over, the members mingled with AFMMLA members over dainties and coffee. It was truly inspirational to see the leaders of the past and the leaders of the future engaging in genuine discussion and friendly debate.

Please see the photo gallery for some more photos from the Bear Pit and reception.

Tomorrow shall mark the second-last full day of session and another jam-packed schedule. Stay tuned!

The Second day of Session was a Success

The second day of the 89th Winter Session of YPM began in the morning with heated debates regarding the Personal Liberty Act and the Natural Resource Management Act. YPM was lucky enough to have Conservation Minister, and former member of YPM, Bill Blaikie sit in on the final comments of the debate regarding the Natural Resource Management Act.

Many members of the media came out to the Legislative Building to interview youth parliamentarians and record the morning sitting. Major media contacts (CBC, CTV, Global and The Winnipeg Free Press) attended the morning sitting, and new and returning YPM members were interviewed.

At lunch, the NDP Caucus of Manitoba hosted a luncheon with sub sandwiches and juice. A refreshingly honest Q&A with Premier Greg Selinger highlighted the concerns of our session members for our province, and our Premier answered in a creative, but straight-to-the-point fashion.

Later in the afternoon, we had our third sitting with a lively Question Period and separate committee meetings, which produced many amendments to three of the bills.

In the fourth sitting, after dinner, members discussed the Family Law Act and the People’s Representative Act. The house was full of passionate and serious debate regarding the current rules concerning custody battles, wards of state decisions and divorce cases.

Throughout the day, alumni stopped by to clerk and view our proceedings, including Nirbir Grewal, Ben Wickstrom, Dana Gregoire, Shannon Pickell, Martin Lussier, Carlee-Ann Dueck, Darren Praznik, Dane Allard and Danielle Northam.

After a long, and highly eventful day, 89th Winter Session members returned to Kelvin High School with tired eyes, tired minds and excitement for the Bear Pit and more debate tomorrow.

The Member for Ottawa South, David Bredin is looking forward to presenting his maiden speech before the House tomorrow. Bredin hopes to become a politician one day, and highly anticipates hearing the stories of former Manitoba MLAs, Howard Pawley, Reg Alcock and Darren Praznik tomorrow during the Bear Pit.

“I think we have a lot to learn from the history of the political process, especially here in Manitoba,” said Bredin.

89th Winter Session Commences in Fine Fashion

The 89th Youth Parliament of Manitoba Winter Session opened December 26th with remarkable enthusiasm.

Lieutenant Governor, Ruth Romanow Wilson encouraged a need to “create growth and discussion” during her remarks to the membership. She also discussed the importance of a life-long passion for critical thinking on hot-button issues such as plural marriages and the role of the monarchy in contemporary Canadian society.

Honourary President, Reg Alcock followed Ms. Wilson’s speech by discussing the apathy of the average youth today regarding the workings of goverment. He noted that our “odd” enthusiasm for politics is a refreshing change that is neccessary in today’s society. “You are kind of weird,” he jested.

House Leader, Alyssa Morrison delivered a powerfully moving reply to the speech from the throne today; sharing with the members her reasons for staying in YPM as long as she has, and the beneficial ways it has effected her to date. From her speech one thing is apparent; the passion for bettering society, which YPM created in her, extends far beyond the walls of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly during the five days of winter session its year. This need to make a difference has truly touched the hearts of her family, community, and the members whom she moved last night through her inspirational speech.

“Our goal is to foster stronger ties between the average Canadian and his or her elected representative,” said Ms. Wilson about the Democratic Renewal Act during the throne speech. Minister of Human Resources, Maarit Tymchyshyn addresses the issue of voter apathy in her bill put before the House. The debate was fierce, passionate, and at time humourous; ending with a general consensus – something must be done.

In all, the first day was a complete success and we are well on our way to hosting a Winter Session to remember! Keep checking back! We will be updating The Youth Parliamentarian daily thoughout this week.

The 89th Winter Session Begins!

Today, at 8 am sharp marked the commencement of the 89th Youth Parliament of Manitoba Winter Session! Approximately 55 youth from across Manitoba will gather in the provincial capital for what is assured to be a week of intense debate and life-long camaraderie.

Upon arrival at Kelvin High School, the new “backbenchers” will be given an orientation and then brought to the legislature. For many, this may be their first time within the historical and beautiful Manitoba Legislative Building. After taking the oath and signing the scroll of the 89th Winter Session, the members will enjoy what is sure to be a delicious meal at Buccacino’s. Following dinner, at 6:30 pm sharp the opening ceremonies will commence, in which Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Ruth Wilson (a youth parliamentarian herself from our 55th until the 58th sessions) will call our 89th Youth Parliament of Manitoba Winter Session to order.

Excited, and surely moved by the historical moment that they have just taken part in, the members will then return to the school for what promises to be a fun (and possibly very long) night.

The dedicated cabinet members who have been planning this session over the previous four months are extremely excited to kick off this year’s session. Alycia Praznik, the Minister of External Affairs, is looking forward to rising in the house tonight to read greetings from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

“I eagerly anticipate the highly controversial and innovative legislation that we have prepared for this winter session,” says Premier Darcy Vermeulen. “Everyone involved is so excited for the next five days of lively debate.”

For more updates on the goings-on of sessions, stay tuned to The Youth Parliamentarian – to be updated live all throughout this week – and catch all of the action, debate, and historical moments which are certain to arise!

A legacy almost 90 years in the making

American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead once said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

No other quote better summarizes the efforts of Youth Parliament of Manitoba. Since 1922, YPM has been dedicated to encouraging thoughtful, and at times radical, debate among young Manitobans. Our youth parliamentarians go on to become political leaders, laywers, doctors, journalists, teachers and more. Our mock debates go on to become Manitoban and Canadian policies and laws. Youth parliamentarians were calling for graduated drivers’ licensing, a gun registry, the abolition of capital punishment and the legalization of abortion as well as same-sex marriage long before these issues officially came to pass.

Within Youth Parliament of Manitoba, we believe in change. We believe in the power of some of our province’s youngest citizens to inspire that change. What we believe in, is each other.

Tell anyone who is unfamiliar with the workings of YPM that an 89-year-old Manitoban institution is run exclusively by a group of 25 young adults, and they’ll likely remark with some air of disbelief. And yet here we are; thanks to an ever-changing group of extremely dedicated volunteers, as well as the loyalty of hundreds of alumni, sponors, political leaders, educators and other friends.

YPM has continued to foster a knowledge of and respect for the Canadian democratic parliamentary process in its members over the course nine decades; through wars, recessions, technological innovations, climate change and more. In almost 90 years, our political, cultural and physical landscape has changed greatly – as has the Youth Parliament of Manitoba. At one time, women were not considered full members of the Older Boys’ Parliament. At one time, the organization was part of the TUXIS movement. At one time, there were no formal ties between the four Western Canadian youth parliaments.

But some things have remained the same; namely our presence in the Manitoba Legislative Building every December 26 to 30 since 1922. With that presence, generations of Manitobans have built upon a legacy of change through education and fellowship.

In a few days, YPM will host its 89th Winter Session.

What sort of legacy our members will leave then?

Join us at the Manitoba Legislative Building Dec. 26-30 to see for yourself!

Welcome to The Youth Parliamentarian

We decided to create The Youth Parliamentarian to bring the extended Youth Parliament of Manitoba (YPM) community together in a forum that encourages ongoing engagement and interaction. By using social media, we can extend our network across cyberspace; allowing for more regular updates about the goings-on of YPM. Many of our former members now live across Canada and beyond. It is our hope that we can stay in touch year-round outside of sessions or Speaker’s Night.

Whether you are an alum, a supporter or a first-year backbencher, YPM has impacted each of our lives in some way. This blog is a celebration of that impact. Do you want to know what’s happening during our debates? Maybe you wonder who is being honoured with our various recognitions? Perhaps you merely wish to stay informed when events are happening or someone in our community does something remarkable?

Our posts will include a mix of event and community features; from the latest announcements and stories to historical perspectives. Do you have something you’d like to share or see? Contact us through our website at www.ypmanitoba.ca/contact/ and we’ll chase that lede. Thank you for your continued interest in Youth Parliament of Manitoba.