That’s not our depart­ment

The Compass - - OPINION - — Brodie Thomas is the edi­tor of the Gulf News news­pa­per in Port aux Basques. He can be reached at edi­

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.nly­ 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.

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