Pax Hughes living his dream as a provincial page

By Robin McCormick
West end Correspondent

Pax Hughes, a Grade 8 student at Fort Frances High Elementary School, is definitely living his dream.

Pax has always been interested in politics, along with being an excellent student. When his teacher Angela Petsnick suggested Pax apply for the Page program in Toronto, Pax was more than excited to do so!

The Page Program involves spending three weeks in Toronto and taking part in the daily proceedings of parliament.

Pax applied in June of 2022, when he was in Grade 7, after persuading his hesitant parents, Jackie and Chad Hughes, that he really, really, wanted to do this. Entry into the program involved having school marks of 80 per cent or more and writing a 750 word essay. The essay involved Pax selling himself as to why he would be a suitable Page representative. Pax wrote about his love of playing the piano and entertaining people. Also added to his letter the joy he finds in judo and how he appreciates the discipline of martial arts. Pax also shared how he has both worked side by side with his Dad, baiting bear, and cleaning and mopping the floors at his mother’s gym.

Around September 1, Pax received the welcome news that he had been accepted into the Page program. When asked if it was hard to decide whether to accept the offer, it was a definite, ”NO, I wanted this experience, more than anything I had ever done.” As did his teacher, Mrs. Petsnick. At the beginning of Pax’s journey to join the page program, she told Jackie and Chad, “your child talks politics all the time; I think this program would be perfect for him.” And that it was!

Pax shared with me that there was plenty of prep work before leaving. He kept his marks at 87 per cent. He was sent pictures and details about all 124 MPPs. “And I had to know their faces, names and riding, and where they sat during parliament,” said Pax.

It was quite overwhelming. The idea came to Pax and Jackie to have Good Impressions copy and laminate a poster. Pax busied himself with cutting and taping and memorized where every member sat.

“It was mind boggling but inspiring at the same time,” shared Pax.

Pax then attended a day of parliament in September, for a mandatory orientation day. Paz’s Auntie Diane attended this venture with him – sadly Jackie was not able to attend due to illness.

The big day arrived for Pax and on October 16. Pax and Jackie flew to Toronto. All of Pax’s flights were paid by the program, but Jackie’s flight and accommodations were paid privately.

When I asked Pax his first impression of the parliament buildings he replied, with awe on his face, ”I was amazed with the architecture, the high marble pillars, glass stained ceilings, huge grand entrance staircase.”

Walking into this beautiful building was definitely one of the highlights as a Page. At first Pax was a bit nervous of the television cameras, which were on constantly, but he became comfortable with them after the first week.

Pax’s daily schedule involved getting up at 6:45 a.m. His day at parliament began at 7:30 a.m., with first going through security, followed by putting on his three piece uniform, which was kept in a locker. Mr. G – the teacher of the 22 pages – would then do the briefing for the day. At 9:45 a.m. pages would get in procession, and the bell would ring and the pages would march into the chamber. The Sergeant of Arms carries in the Mace, which is shaped like a crown; when the mace is in its holster, parliament is in session. That’s when the page’s duties begin – they serve water to the MPPs, and deliver notes between members in the chamber, involving bills to be passed, laws and petitions. During question period, the conversation is often loud, and can get heated. Bells announce breaks and meal times – four breaks each day – during which the pages stay busy delivering water and completing tasks.

There are a 124 MPP’S (members of provincial parliament) in Ontario. Pax met Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, Stephen Lecce, minister of education, the King’s representative for the province, the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Edith Dumont.

Pax was very happy to meet the many people he did – being able to meet and have a picture taken with Doug Ford and Greg Rickford was something he was hoping for.

Pax and Jackie both shared Pax was treated very well by Rickford, including some shared lunches. Rickford was beyond happy, as this was his first time to have a Page from his riding. Jackie also received a few perks from Rickford such as gallery passes. “Both Rickford and Ford were very personable and welcoming,” shared Jackie.

By the end of each day, Pax was extremely tired. He’s very happy with the many relationship he formed with other pages – many may become friends or at least acquaintances for a lifetime.

Pax would encourage other students to become a page; he feels it’s a great program, which opens up your thinking of the government, the importance it plays in Canada and how one law can change millions of lives.

Pax has all intentions of making a career in politics. He’s planning to study law in university, and until then, to volunteer in the Rainy River district on Government programs.

Pax shared he gives his two grandfathers credit for his intense desire for politics. From the early age of six, his grandfather Heikki Lampi and Ken Hughes always had the news on their televisions when Pax would visit. Heikki, Canadian news and Ken USA news, Pax shared, “My Grandfather Ken loved Donald Trump, I didn’t. I would tease him, that I was going to put a Hillary Clinton voting sign in his yard.”

Heikki’s best friend was Roy Avis, Fort Frances mayor for many years. When Roy visited, there was always lots of politics discussed. All these facts play a part in Pax’s passion for politics.

Although Jackie and Chad were hesitant to have Pax apply for the Page program at the beginning, they are both so happy they sent in the application. Both can see it enriched Pax’s life immensely.

When I asked Pax if he was happy to return home after his three week role as a page it was a definite “NO, but maybe one day I’ll be there as a parliament member.”

Pax would like to thank Mrs. Petsnick for believing and promoting him to apply plus all her support through this experience. “Also thanks to my parents, grandparents and family members for always being my rooting team.”

My closing question to Pax was, “What do you think of our Government today.”

And spoken like a true politician already, his answer was, ”No comment”.

Here’s wishing Pax all the best in his political future. May you continue living your dream.