On Point: Getting youth engaged in government

The province has taken aim at getting young people interested in politics in Newfoundland and Labrador, but some youth say the government is going about it in the wrong way. Three members of the province's Youth Parliament discuss how to get young people more involved in politics.
On Point is heading back to school this week to find out what are the big issues that young people think the provincial government should tackle. We'll also take a look at Frank Coleman's latest controversy, and how much of a person's private life is fair game when he or she enters politics. 23:17

The province has taken aim at getting young people interested in politics in Newfoundland and Labrador, but some youth say the government is going about it in the wrong way.

Bill 6, which was introduced to the House of Assembly in April, would pave the way for youth to sit on town councils as non-voting members.

Charlie Byrne said the bill will likely only engage youth who are already involved and interested in politics – and these young people shouldn't be the target.

"I think we need to focus on the youth that aren't engaged, the people that don't care about government, the people that don't know what government is or what councils are, why they should vote, and those are the people, I think, that need to be engaged," said Byrne.

"It's good to reward people that are already engaged, but I think the government needs to focus on the other youth."

Bill 6 has sparked debate from municipal leaders, who feel the process of appointing a young person to sit on council would be undemocratic.

Adam Quirk said there's a bigger issue to be taken with the bill.

"I think there's a bigger problem with Bill 6 in that it just kind of treats youth like tokens, so councils will put youth representatives on their councils, they'll be non-voting, they'll won't have any real power," said Quirk.

"It's just show – it's just politics. It's just saying, 'Look at our government, we're engaging youth and that's a good thing,' but it really doesn't do enough."

Michael Sullivan said politicians of all political stripes need to actually take an interest in things that matter to youth on a broader spectrum.

"Young people are not just youth, they're also just people like any others who care about issues. They want jobs, they want decent wages, they want good health care," said Sullivan.

"By showing youth that the deliberations of politicians will affect how they receive these services and what their lives are like after they graduate or what they do later in life, I think then people will start to see the stakes and get involved."

Byrne, Quirk and Sullivan are all involved in the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Parliament.

Also featured on this week's On Point with host Peter Cowan are MHAs David Brazil, George Murphy and Dale Kirby talking about what to expect when the House of Assembly sits again.


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