That’s not our department
This province says it wants to increase youth engagement. It’s a story as old as time youth apathy. Even the ancient Greeks complained about it. Teenagers aren’t interested in adult affairs. They want to listen to their newfangled music and rebel.
So the province recently created the Office of Youth Engagement, which is an offshoot of the Office of Public Engagement.
You can find a flashy, youth oriented website at www.nlyouth.ca which encourages youth to “join the conversation” by text message, calling, email and tweets.
Perhaps that’s where 13-year-old Alexander Carter went wrong. He tried reaching out to his government in the old fashioned way with pen, paper, and a postage stamp.
His letter arguing that the province’s hunting age should be lowered to match other Canadian provinces was sent to the appropriate government department through his elected representative, MHA Andrew Parsons.
That is, after all, how we’re taught the parliamentary system is supposed to work. We elect local representatives who travel to the seat of government to speak on our behalf.
To be fair, this letter most likely did not pass though the Office of Youth Engagement on its way to Environment Minister Joan Shea’s desk. If it had, someone there probably would’ve seen it for what it was: a youth attempting to engage with the government.
And therein lies the problem with government departments. All the duties and responsibilities get carved up. It’s not an altogether bad way of doing things, but sometimes it means the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
Youth engagement? That’s not our responsibility. We’re the Department of Environment.
If the right public relations person had seen Alexander’s hand-written letter, the province could’ve spun it into a great feel-good story. The message could’ve been: “Here’s a youth bringing good ideas to the government’s attention. And we’re listening.”
Bringing this province’s hunting legislation in line with eight other provinces would take little more than the stroke of a pen. And then imagine the photo-ops! Young teens in blaze orange hunting gear holding .22s with a few mounted coyotes, turrs and rabbits in the background.
The premier could’ve trumpeted the benefits youth will get as they hike in the woods, bonding with their parents and learning the traditional ways of our forefathers.
Instead, Alexander got his two-sentence response letter back through his MHA. They didn’t take the time to carbon copy his address.
Youth engagement should not simply be a department unto itself. Youth engagement needs to be something every government department does every day.
They missed the target on this one. Perhaps they’ll hit the mark next time.