Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Article by Frank Klees, MPP
As published in the Auroran
March 5, 2013

Hope for Ontario Politics: Our  Youth

 

This past Saturday morning, I had one of the most inspiring experiences in my 20 years as a Member of Provincial Parliament. I'm hopeful that you will share my sense of optimism about the future of politics in Ontario after reading this column.

                                 The 27th Annual Ontario Model Parliament

Some time ago, I received an email from Eamonn O'Keeffe, a Grade 11 student at Upper Canada College. It read, "I am writing in order to extend to you an invitation to speak at the 27th annual Ontario Model Parliament. OMP is Canada's finest simulation of provincial politics for secondary students. This is a student run event that attracts over 200 delegates annually.

"We would be honoured to have you deliver the conference's Keynote  Address.....In the past, Keynote speakers have included The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Mr. Bob Rae, Mr. Bill Davis and Mr. Rex Murphy."

While I was puzzled at how I came to be included in that rather elite list of speakers (other than perhaps more notables had already declined and they were desperate) I was intrigued by the opportunity to experience this event with what would be a very special gathering of young people. I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation.

The Ontario Model Parliament was founded in 1986 by Dr. Paul Bennett, former history master at Upper Canada College. The objective of the program is to educate students about the political process and how the provincial parliament works. As delegates to the Ontario Model Parliament, more than 200 students gather to experience the life of a Member of Provincial Parliament.

On the March Agenda is the One-Day Elections' Day Event, at which students decide which Party they want to join, elect the Party Leaders, develop party policy, write bills, debate those bills and craft a budget. The April Agenda takes place at Queen's Park over three days, where students debate bills and vote on their budget from the very desks where MPPs sit.

In addition to simulating the experiences of MPPs as they carry out their legislative responsibilities, students may also elect to join the Ontario Model Parliament Press Corp. As one of the 30 student journalists, they cover the proceedings and report on the simulated debates in the legislature.

Students from public and private schools from across the GTA are invited to participate. It is not affiliated with any political organization and has no political agenda. The purpose is to spark an interest in students about their system of government in hopes that they will see the importance of getting involved.

" If you don't get involved in the political process, you are destined to be governed by those who do"

 

Anyone who has ever accepted a business card from me will know that the above quote is inscribed on the back. In my opening remarks to the students, I challenged them with that quote, and encouraged them to build on their experience as delegates to the model parliament and reminded them that they can help shape their future through their involvement in the political process.

What was so inspiring about this experience ? You decide as you read the following excerpts read by Co-Chairs Christopher Taylor and Sachin Pasricha from....

                    The Opening Message of the Ontario Model Parliament

"This year, OMP is occurring at a time of intense political maneuvering and debate throughout the province. Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal leader who has dominated Ontario  politics for the past decade, stepped down amidst a gas plant scandal while Kathleen Wynne was chosen by the Liberals as his successor, making her the province's first female and openly gay Premier. At the same time, the passing of Bill 115, which limits teachers' collective bargaining rights, has lead some teachers' unions to wage "work-to-rule" protests, resulting in thousands of Ontario students losing their extra-curricular activities.....

" as model MPP's, it will be your responsibility to resolve these conflicts. How will you balance Ontario's budget, whose unsustainable deficits were exposed in last year's Drummond Report? How can the provincial government help Ontario's economy to steadily recover from a devastating global recession? These questions and more will be crucial in leading the province into a prosperous future. As model MPPs, it is your role to answer them."

"......the decisions you make today and in April are ones that would affect you, your peers, and generations of Ontarians to come."

There really is hope for Ontario politics, and I thank the organizing committee for inviting me to be a part of such an inspirational event.