St. Ja­cobs stu­dent gets an up-close look at Queen’s Park an­tics

A stu­dent at Foun­da­tion Chris­tian School in Win­ter­bourne, Luke Dixon get­ting all kinds of ex­pe­ri­ence as a page in the On­tario leg­is­la­ture

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

WITH THE PO­LIT­I­CAL LAND­SCAPE as febrile as ever and an elec­tion just around the cor­ner, there is per­haps no more ex­cit­ing time to be at Queen’s Park.

That’s cer­tainly bound to be the case for Luke Dixon, a St. Ja­cobs res­i­dent and Grade 7 stu­dent at the Foun­da­tion Chris­tian School in Win­ter­bourne, who was se­lected to rep­re­sent the Kitch­ener- Con­estoga rid­ing in the prov­ince’s pres­ti­gious Leg­isla­tive Page Pro­gram.

For two weeks, the young stu­dent will serve as a page at Queen’s Park, where he will get to meet and work with the most se­nior politi­cians in the prov­ince and watch the demo­cratic process in ac­tion. And it’s that first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence, says Dixon, that drew him to the role.

“It looked a lot more in­ter­est­ing to be on the cham­ber floor do­ing things then just sit­ting there or watch­ing TV,” he notes. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for every­one be­cause you get to learn about things and you meet a whole bunch of new peo­ple, and it’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Each year, the Leg­isla­tive Page Pro­gram se­lects ap­prox­i­mately 140 bright stu­dents in Grades 7 and 8 from across the prov­ince to serve in the hum­ble, but vi­tal, role of a leg­isla­tive page. It’s a de­mand­ing job, as Dixon ex­plains it, plac­ing them right in the thick of ac­tion while si­mul­ta­ne­ously ask­ing them to re­main in back­ground and as un­ob­tru­sive as pos­si­ble.

“We’re try­ing not to make our­selves no­ticed but to do what’s needed,” says Dixon.

That can in­volve tak­ing and pass­ing notes be­tween the MPPs and other mem-

bers, get­ting wa­ter for any­one on de­mand, pre­par­ing the cham­bers for the day and de­liv­er­ing books and ref­er­ences re­quested by the clerk. As such, pages have to be ex­tremely ob­ser­vant and mind­ful of de­tails, and quick to move at a mo­ment’s no­tice when they’re needed.

The re­sult, in the­ory any­way, is a smoothly run­ning and ef­fi­cient leg­is­la­ture; like the grease in the wheels, the pages are what help keep the enor­mous ma­chin­ery of gov­ern­ment in mo­tion.

For any­one who has ever been au­di­ence to a meet­ing of an as­sem­bly of any kind, the event can seem fas­tid­i­ous if not down­right te­dious. But on the floor, Dixon says that it can be a very fast-paced and ex­cit­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s a lot of fun but it’s also a lot of work, es­pe­cially mem­ory work be­cause you have to know all the MPPs by faces and seats,” says Dixon. “So it’s hard at the start, but it gets eas­ier. And ac­tu­ally be­ing in the cham­ber is a lot of fun ver­sus just sit­ting in the gal­leries.”

It’s also a great way to learn the ins-and-outs of On­tario’s po­lit­i­cal process.

“So right now they’re do­ing the rou­tine things like the in­tro­duc­tion of bills and pe­ti­tions or re­ports by com­mit­tees or mem­ber state­ments,” said Dixon. “So it’s fun. The two best parts for pages are prob­a­bly ques­tion pe­riod and rou­tine pro­ceed­ings be­cause you have the most to do.”

The day be­gins at 8:15 a.m. for the young pages, as they are briefed early on the day’s events and what will be re­quired of them. They are also tasked with get­ting the cham­bers ready ahead of the MPPs for the start of leg­is­la­ture.

“Once or­der is called and the Speaker comes in, he reads the prayer and then he calls the or­ders of the day. And at that point half the pages go down to leg­isla­tive process class, and half of them stay in the cham­ber to help wher­ever needed, and then every­one’s back up for ques­tion pe­riod be­cause it’s quite busy,” ex­plains Dixon.

From there, the leg­is­la­ture ad­journs for lunch, af­ter which are the rou­tine pro­ceed­ings oc­cur. “And that’s the bills, mo­tions, re­ports by com­mit­tees, pe­ti­tions, mem­ber state­ments and state­ments by the min­istry and re­sponses. Not in that or­der, but those six things.”

Dixon will soon be re­turn­ing to his home in St. Ja­cobs as the leg­isla­tive ses­sion ends, but he’ll be re­turn­ing with a wealth of new ex­pe­ri­ence and in­sight. The youth is cer­tainly keen to en­cour­age oth­ers to ap­ply for the pro­gram, though with one caveat.

“I would rec­om­mend it to every­one who is good with mem­o­riz­ing things, be­cause you need to know all the MPPs and their faces and their rid­ings and their names, their port­fo­lios if they have one, and where they sit,” he said.

“It’s a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence and I would rec­om­mend it to peo­ple. But if they find they have trou­ble with re­mem­ber­ing things for school, it might not be the best for them be­cause you have to know a lot.”

[SUB­MIT­TED]

Grade 7 stu­dent Luke Dixon at Queen’s Park, where he is serv­ing a two-week stint as a page.

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