Manitoba

All in the family: In a Manitoba Legislature first, daughter of sitting MLA is working as legislative page

The legislative page program has run for decades in Manitoba, but officials believe no page has ever had a parent as a sitting MLA before, until Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard and her 17-year-old daughter, Annlise, came along.

Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard watching with pride as daughter, 17, starts prestigious job at legislature

Annlise Guillemard was accepted into the prestigious page program at the Manitoba Legislature. Her mother, Sarah, is the MLA for Fort Richmond. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Sarah Guillemard doesn't have to ask twice for her eldest daughter to get her a cup of coffee. 

All she has to do is sit in question period at the Manitoba Legislature and give her 17-year-old daughter, Annlise, a nod.

Their arrangement is unheard of in Manitoba history — a sitting MLA with a child who is working as a legislative page.

"We both can recognize that we're in a professional capacity right now, so I don't give her any preferential treatment, and as soon as we're home I don't ask her to make me coffee," quipped Sarah Guillemard, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Fort Richmond, while her daughter laughed. 

"She's been very polite and it's really encouraging to see how she's interacting with all members of the legislative building."

Every school year, 10 high school students in Manitoba are chosen to work as legislative pages — a prestigious opportunity. They act, essentially, as assistants on the chamber floor — giving out documents, delivering notes between members and announcing the MLAs' names during recorded votes. 

The program has run for decades in Manitoba, but officials don't believe there has ever been a sitting MLA with a child working as a page before.

Annlise says it's cool to think she and her mother are doing something that's never been done in Manitoba. 

"A lot of people have come up to me and say, 'Wow, you're making history with working with your mom,'" she said. "I guess it hasn't really sunk in that I'm making history, but it's special." 

Memorized names of 57 MLAs

The Grade 12 student at Fort Richmond Collegiate was approached by a teacher a few months ago about applying for the page program.

She's had an interest in politics for a few years, even before her mother became an MLA in 2016, and says she recognized the opportunity to see history for herself. She applied and got the job. 

Sergeant-at-arms Dave Shuttleworth, who oversees the legislative page program, was impressed with Annlise right away. 

She showed up to her first training day already knowing the names of all 57 MLAs, and which riding each represented.

"She's very teachable — I like that," he said. "She's not afraid to ask questions." 

Annlise Guillemard hands a drink to Dawson Trail MLA Bob Lagassé during question period on Thursday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Shuttleworth said Annlise wasn't granted any favouritism because of her mother's job, and earned the role as page based on her own merits.

Only top students are eligible, since they must catch up themselves on the school work they miss. A page is usually in the legislature for a day or two each week, while the legislature is in session.

After only a week of question period, Annlise has learned there's a lot of waiting involved. 

"They usually wave to us or they nod their heads and look directly at us, meaning they want our attention."

'The people behind the names'

Her mom is watching it all happen with pride. 

"I think it's a neat opportunity for her to see the people behind the names, and not everyone gets that opportunity."

Sarah says their work doesn't carry over to the family dinner table too often. Because of the nature of their respective jobs, they have to keep some matters secret, but she says it's a treat that they can share many of these experiences together. 

The experience has even changed Annlise's perspective on her mom's job.

"I guess it seems more cool now," Annlise acknowledged, to which her mom responded with a fist pump. 

"Before seeing how it all worked, it sounded kind of boring, but now it's really interesting, just to see … history being made right in front of your eyes," Annlise said. "It's incredible."

She's not certain if she ever wants to be a politician, though — her interests currently lean toward science and medicine.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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