London students getting inside look at life at city hall

A pair of London, Ont., university students have been getting an inside look at how their city is run and they like what they see.
Emaan Ali says her experience spending time at London's city hall gave her a better understanding about the ways in which municipal politics affects people's day-to-day lives. (CBC)

Two London, Ont., university students have been getting an inside look at how their city is run and they like what they see.

Emaan Ali and Floranda Agroam were paired with local city councillors and given a chance to tag along to various meetings and events around the city. Both are students in the social justice and peace studies program at King's University College in London. Six students in total are participating in the same program.

Ali said her time with Coun. Anna Hopkins has let her see how things get done at city hall and the effect these councillors have on the lives of the people in their city.

Floranda Agroam says 'every minute' she spent hanging out at London's city hall was a new experience for her. (CBC)

"I didn't realize how great that impact was and really when you're in a position in city council, what influence you have over the lives of Londoners," said Ali, when speaking about her experience on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive.

Agroam, who has been paired with Coun. Tanya Park, said she, too, has been surprised to discover the many ways that municipal government touches people's lives.

"Every minute, actually, at city hall was something new for me," Agroam said, appearing alongside Ali on Afternoon Drive. "I didn't know much about council at all and living in London for so long, I didn't know a lot of the institutions that participated in city hall."

As an example, Agroam said a trip to a multi-year budget meeting helped her understand how institutions must work with municipal politicians to do what they do.

Both students have been paired with women serving on council. This has been a key element of their experience and something that has inspired them.

"Women are really hesitant to get involved in politics because it's such a male-dominated sphere," said Ali. "But just watching these city councillors, it's very inspiring to see how they handle situations and what their realities are in politics and sort of, what knowledge we can gain from them and what partnerships we can build talking to them."

Agroam pointed to the leadership she and Ali see being demonstrated by women on council.

"Just working with the council and looking and seeing how the female councillors are now becoming leaders, instead of just following males' paths, it's just definitely been an experience that has been helpful for me," said Agroam.

When asked whether they would consider entering politics one day themselves, both Ali and Agroam seem to be leaving the door open to that possibility.

"I'm definitely considering maybe running for municipal politics one day," said Agroam.

Ali said that as a result of her experience seeing council up close, she views politics as a vehicle for making change.

With files from the CBC's Gary Ennett and Bob Steele