All in a day’s work: Nunavut high school kids take the floor
19 high school students stand in for MLAs and ministers during Nov. 22 youth parliament
Youth from around the territory put their political wits to the test at the fourth Nunavut Youth Parliament, which took place Nov. 22 at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
The Youth Parliament, televised across Nunavut on the co-op television channel, saw 19 high school students representing the 19 constituencies in Nunavut in a simulated legislative sitting in the assembly chamber.
The goal of the exercise: to give high school students a chance “to learn about the democratic process and experience the role of an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly,” said speaker of the house Hunter Tootoo in a news release.
The Youth Parliament’s agenda rolled out in the same way as a Nunavut Legislative Assembly daily session, with prayer, followed by statements from ministers and members.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about two items — fire prevention and emergency response team services,“ said Glen Ullyot, acting for Lorne Kusugak, MLA for Rankin Inlet South-Whale Cove.
“I’m announcing a new, more effective and supportive program that will revolve around fire and disaster prevention to be put in place in all Nunavut schools and communities,” Ullyout said.
Ullyout’s statement received the usual thumping of the desks that MLAs offer when they approve a statement.
But there was a major difference between the proceedings of the real legislative assembly and the mock youth parliament, — there were only three boys. The rest of the young people sitting in the chamber were girls.
That’s opposite of the breakdown among Nunavut legislature where the majority of the elected members are men.
Also noticeable: the absence of notes passed around among ministers and MLAs, and the looks that they often exchange while others speak.
In her statement, the acting minister of finance, Siobhan Bligh of Cambridge Bay, said keeping a balanced budget is crucial.
“We have to have a reliable source of income. The plan for the next few years is for the Government of Nunavut to balance its finances,” Bligh said.
“To spend money, we have to make it first. And to have less debt, you can’t spend more than you make,” she said with confidence.
Kaytlyn Niego of Baker Lake spoke about the importance of education.
“Education is important to us. Without it, we would still be like the cavemen who were amazed with fire, unlike today when we’re amazed by iPods, flat-screen TV’s, video games and roller coasters,” Niego said.
“Without good education you’ll only have a job that pays just enough to pay bills, or put food on the table — or out on the streets,” Niego said.
Edna Elias, Commissioner of Nunavut, congratulated the students on their willingness to take on the role of being a politician for the day, and offered some advice to youth as well.
“There are tremendous opportunities to young Nunavummiut. I’d like to say, far, far more than when I was you age. And I envy you being in your position where there are so many opportunities facing you, for you to take a hold of,” Elias said.