Students urged to make a difference

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff spoke to students at Fort Frances High School on Monday to teach them a bit about the political process and to encourage them to make a difference in their own way.
He quizzed the group of Grade 10 students assembled in the Townshend Theatre about their leaders—from the mayor at the municipal level to their MPP, MP, provincial premier, and prime minister.
Boshcoff also encouraged them to name as many of their local councillors as they could, and to cite the number of seats both in Queen’s Park and the House of Commons.
Immigrants to Canada have to answer many questions such as these before they can be granted citizenship, he noted.
“Immigrants have to answer 16 out of 20 questions correctly,” Boshcoff told the students.
Among some of the other questions they have to answer are:
•What is the size of Canada in square kilometres? (Answer: 10 million);
•Who was the first prime minister of Canada and on what bill does his face appear? (Answer: Sir John A. Macdonald, and the $10 bill); and
•What is the Queen’s title in Canada? (Answer: Canada’s Head of State)
After testing their knowledge of Canada, Boshcoff asked the students to consider their local area and the concerns of most importance to them.
“If there was one issue, in the high school, in the district, or in your community, what would it be?” he asked.
Students replied with issues such as roads, the literacy test, global warming, and the driving age.
“Now take any one of those issues you’ve just raised,” Boshcoff continued. “If you wanted to do anything about any one of those, what could you do?”
He asked them to consider the driving age, and whether they wanted it raised or lowered. The students replied they wanted it lowered to 14, but would keep the graduated licensing system intact.
Boshcoff then asked the students how they could accomplish this. They suggested letters to their MP, a petition, and even a march on Ottawa.
Boshcoff reminded them that driving licences fall under the provincial Ministry of Transportation, so they would have to march on Queen’s Park instead.
In a straw poll taken among the students gathered, the majority were in favour of lowering the driving age.
“A good way to start would be to have town council pass a resolution” in support of the idea, Boshcoff suggested.
Students also could write letters to the editor of the local newspaper and get an endorsement from their student council.
“If you want to change the world . . . all you have to do is this. As an individual, you have to make a commitment that you believe this issue is important enough that you want to convince others,” Boshcoff said.
“You have to believe it yourself, and you have to convince others,” he stressed.
The final step is to convince those in power that your idea is a good one.
A simpler way to effect change in the local community is through volunteer work, Boshcoff noted.
Most of the students in the group already had accumulated some volunteer hours towards their high school diploma—and some already had fulfilled the requirement.
When young people volunteer their time and get involved in their community, it inspires others to do so, as well, Boshcoff said.
“Everything you do counts,” he stressed.
Of the students assembled, five were running for class president. Boshcoff gave them some advice about seeking office.
“You have to know why you are running,” he said. “I hope it’s because you want to make things better.
“You should have some measure of confidence,” he added. “I’m not saying you run just to win, but if you believe your idea is worth winning for, that should give you confidence.”
Boshcoff shared with the students his personal history of running for office.
“I started off as president of my high school,” he noted. He later became a student leader in university and then a councillor for the City of Thunder Bay.
He eventually became the mayor of Thunder Bay and president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
In 2003, he was elected as MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River as a Liberal.
Boshcoff said he’s lost some of the elections he ran in, but that it is never a waste. “People tend to claim they learn more from losing, though it hurts more,” he admitted.
The students asked the MP what sort of education you need to become elected to Parliament.
“The better educated you are, the better chance you have of being helpful as an elected representative,” he replied.
“It doesn’t matter what trade or profession you choose,” he added.
For students interested in becoming politicians, Boshcoff advised that they cultivate a love of reading and make an effort to learn French, as well as a third language.
“If I had to do it over again . . . I would have certainly learned my French a lot earlier,” he said.
Boshcoff also encouraged the students to take advantage of every program and exchange that was available to them, and to volunteer in their community in some way that was meaningful to them.
“How old do you have to be to change the world?” he asked the students in conclusion. “Any age.”