Welcome to the intensely anticipated Part II of everyone’s favourite holiday, UNICEF Bring your MP to School Day! As was stipulated in Part I, I was lucky enough to sit in on Don Valley West’s MP John Carmichael’s candid discussion with the political savvy kids of Northern Secondary School in Toronto.
Now where were we? Ah yes, global affairs. Starting off the topic with a bang, Carmichael was hit with the question: “Given the current situation in the Middle East [More specifically Syria and Iraq], to what degree do you think Canada should be involved?” Not expecting to be worked this hard, he mustered up a response, “I think right now we’re playing the right role. We have to be engaged with our partners and allies. The brutality and barbarity of what we’re seeing going on over there is at a level that’s absolutely frightening. The challenge is, from a boots-on-the-ground perspective, you need people in the region to be the ones to address the issues happening in their backyards. We need to be there in a support role, which we are doing with our airforce…but I think what we’re doing right now is a good response to better understand the level of our involvement. In my case, I don’t believe Canada should have troops on the ground at this stage. The people in Iraq and Syria, they live it, they understand it. I think, in that region, they need to find the right solution and we need to work to support them as an ally.”
While that may have been a response patriotic enough to inspire a beaver to build a damn cutting off ISIS’s water supply, it’s questionable whether he won over any Trudeau-striken, budding female voters sitting in the audience.
The next question brought us closer to home, “The Republicans in the U.S. have taken over all of congress. They’ve historically been more favourable towards recourse exploitation,”
Carmichael interrupts, “Recourse exploitation?”
“Fine, recourse development.”
Laughter ensues. “Nicely said, nicely said” exclaims Carmichael.
“How do you think that will affect the Conservative government’s push to put forth the Keystone XL pipeline?”
Mr. Carmichael is a vice chair of the Canada-U.S. inter-parliamentary group, where our MPs meet with members of the American congress and senate to address our relations, be it in trade, jobs, recourses, or what makes our beer so much better than the toilet water Americans drink. “I should tell you that when I knock on doors of congressmen or senators, Democrat or Republican, I have never had push-back on Keystone. The Democrats as well as the Republicans equally support the need for the job creation and the recourse opportunity in shipping recourses south of the border. We [the Conservatives] have made our case on behalf of Keystone and I can only hope that with the change in the balance of power down south, we’ll see greater support for Keystone.”
And so, a student responded “Related to the Keystone Pipeline: I’m all for a good economy and I think people deserve to have jobs and that we shouldn’t deliberately tank it, but at what point do you think it’s worth sacrificing the economy to save the environment, especially in the critical condition that it’s in?” Now, I can’t prove it but, I swear it was at this point Mr. Carmichael mouthed to his assistant, “Boy, I need a drink”. But to the student’s point, “Absolutely, there is a responsibility in government to ensure that whatever we’re doing that there is a balance and a response that ensures that we are doing what’s right for our country and for the planet. So partisan politics aside, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t believe that. But the reality check is, in Ottawa, we may draw the line as government on whether something’s going to tank the economy. For example, carbon tax. We [the Conservatives] do not agree with the carbon tax. It’s that simple. We believe that the cost would push business away from Canada with a cost that would affect every family across the country. So to that end, we don’t think a carbon tax is a solution to what we need to do. That said however, we do need to ensure that responsible resource management, with consideration to environmental issues is part of what we deliver.”
This lead us to the last question, one in the same tree-hugging vein, “So, I just wanted to know…is there a game plan [for the environment]? Because there has been a lot of talk, but there’s only so much that citizens can do and we look up to our government officials to have a plan.” Carmichael responded, “So, if citizens are limited in what they can do to create change, where do you go to get the help? Well, I’m your guy. Like me or not, you come to your MP or MPP and you exercise your democratic right and talk about the issue. You work with groups that deal with similar concepts, and if you’re frustrated and not seeing enough action, you write to your MP.”
The talk ended on a note, that I think, speaks volumes on the importance of these types of events, one I’m glad Mr. Carmichael had the opportunity to share, “If you’ve watched question period, when we sit in front of the cameras–all three parties, talking about issues, it appears pretty contentious. You know, we don’t get along, we don’t look like we’re friends. Well, the reality is the opposite. For government to work, your members of parliament have to find resolutions to problems. And so when we’re in committee, we work very well together. I have friends on the other side of the aisle that I talk to and deal with issues all the time. Issues that are relative to me and to them, and we try and find solutions. Government does in fact work. It appears from time to time that it doesn’t, but I’m not one of the ones to believe that.”
And with that, Bring Your MP to School Day rapped up. I wonder why politicians don’t talk to their of-age voters like they do with high schoolers? That being said, if I were to believe all of what Mr. Carmichael preached in his closing spiel, I would effectively be out of a job. So, Mr. Carmichael, despite how quaintly you trust in our democracy, there will be no stop to the snide complaints from me and all of the True North Time’s good readers.