CBC News Federal Election

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Pint-size party leaders vie for PM

Matt CarterMatt Carter is a Ryerson University journalism student. He worked for the Toronto Sun before coming to CBC News Online.


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Meet 12-year-old Thoma Toshi, prime minister of Canada. He's not yet five feet tall, but he speaks with firm voice, punctuating his comments with gestures that recall Bill Clinton.

Thoma Toshi

"The shootings must stop," he tells his Grade 7 classmates. "The Liberals will ban handguns, toughen sentences for gun crimes and invest in community-based programs."

As leader of the Liberal party, Toshi is one of five participants in the leaders debate at Greensborough Public School in Markham, Ont. On Jan. 23, the same day as the federal election, the students will vote in class, in their very own shadow election. Toshi wants to make sure they vote Liberal. But Conservative leader Kenneth Dawson, 12, has other plans.

Kenneth Dawson

"When Mr. Toshi introduced the gun registry he said it would cost $2 million. Today it's cost $2 billion, 1,000 times more!" Dawson says. "Why did you lie to Canadians?"

"We will put in as much money as we need to," Toshi shoots back. "We're doing everything we can to stop gun violence."

Since the real-life federal election call, Toshi, Dawson and their classmates have devoted 80 minutes each day to studying politics. They follow the election coverage in the news and study party platforms. They've even filmed their own campaign ads.

"This type of activity doesn't work without great kids," says history teacher Andrew Locker. "They're thinking, they're observing. It's consumed them."

It's consumed Locker's classroom, too. Across the front wall, multicoloured block letters spell out Election 2005-2006. The side walls are papered with hand-drawn campaign posters. At the back of the room, two bulletin boards are covered with overlapping newspaper clippings from the campaign trail.

"They're having such a good time, they don't even realize how hard they're working," Locker says. "They like the fact that they're debating issues. We have students that come from parts of the world that have experienced war, so when they get to talk about gun violence it actually means something to them."

Each student in the class has been assigned a role. Some are party leaders, while others are communications directors or senior policy advisors. At the end of today's debate, the students assigned the role of communications directors will issue press releases to try to spin the hypothetical news coverage in a way that benefits their parties.

Locker's method is to make lessons as realistic as possible. When the students are learning about the House of Commons, he divides the class along party lines and sets up rows of desks on opposite sides of the room, so the students feel as if they're in the House. When it's time to discuss issues, Locker gets his cues from the day's headlines.

Mili Patel

The students seem to be responding. At least three of the party leaders say they're considering a career in politics. The class Bloc Qu�b�cois leader, 12-year-old Mili Patel, is one of them.

"I've learned to argue and to stand up for my rights," Patel says. "You can't just talk, you have to find evidence to prove your point. You have to think on your feet. When something comes at you, you have to know how to respond."

Toshi, too, thinks he might make a good politician one day. Recently he met the Liberal candidate for Oak Ridges-Markham, Lui Temelkovski, and says the meeting inspired him.

"It looks like fun," Toshi says. "I'm the type of person who likes to give speeches in front of people. I'm not shy about my feelings."


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# # [an error occurred while processing this directive]
ELECTION RESULTSDetails>
1241035129
Total Elected and Leading
CON124036.27%
LIB103030.23%
BQ51010.48%
NDP29017.48%
IND10.52%
OTH005.02%

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