Tonight was my last night on Folklorama duty and I headed to Shalom Square with Terry Duguid and Jim Carr. It is always a pleasure and a joy to visit this pavilion as it is such a rich and vibrant culture. It was actually one of the first pavilions I ever visited at Folklorama, and it was a visit with politicians. I guess I’m carrying on that tradition!
I was speaking with another political volunteer tonight; this is one of the first federal election campaigns he’s worked on and it was interesting to try to look at things from his perspective. It reminded me why I got involved in politics in the first place: to help inspire young people to participate. Young people have a stronger voice than they realize. I know I’ve stated this statistic before, but over 4.1 million youth did not exercise their right to vote during the 2011 election – that could have made a huge difference in the outcome.
In the spirit of throwback Thursday (#tbt) I thought I’d tell you about my first exposure to politics. I grew up in Lac du Bonnet, which was a small town of about 1,500 people (the population has since increased to about 4,000 when you include the RM). Everyone in a small town learns from a young age that you need to be involved in your community, and I was no different. My federal riding at the time was Provencher (it’s since become part of the Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman riding) and my MP was a Liberal by the name of David Iftody. My parents were donors and my father worked as a sign chairman, and I was involved just by sheer virtue of that fact. I was able to go with my dad to riding events, meet David, and learn what it meant to get someone to support you (my first exposure to door knocking!) I even got to meet Jean Chrétien when he was Prime Minister, as he came to Lac du Bonnet for an event. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the beginning of the ‘political bug’.
It would be over 10 years before I once again got involved. Even though I had always voted, identified as a Liberal, and watched the news with keen interest, I wasn’t directly involved in any political work until 2007. In fact, I got my first exposure to the Young Liberals immediately after the leadership contest which saw Stéphane Dion emerge the victor. My first event was a fundraiser to retire debt for the leadership candidates; I helped with registration at the door. From there, I became more and more involved, served on my first campaign, and then ran for President of the Young Liberals of Canada – Manitoba.
It’s been a roller coaster ride since then, and I’ve met some incredible people. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met in politics. There’s just something about this crazy life that brings people together and binds them. I feel extremely lucky to have found my passion at such a young age, even if it took me a few more years to truly figure it out.
I find that it’s a good exercise to think back to what made you get involved in politics in the first place; this can be a tough and unforgiving career, and it is easy to lose focus. Being around new volunteers, especially young ones, reminds me that I’m doing this because I believe that I can help make a difference. Some people may call that naïve; I call it hopeful.