The Youth Are Our Future

Recently in the political world, we have heard that youth are being underestimated, and I’m not sure anything could be truer. Greta Thurnberg has created an international movement, spoken with eloquence and consideration about complex topics and is imploring the world to act on climate change. With an elegance that career politicians often lack, she is mobilizing millions of youth to join her.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to receive an invitation from our local Girl Guides to discuss what is it like to be a woman in politics, what it was like to campaign as a woman and how girls can be more engaged in politics despite not being old enough to vote.

Councillor Prest and I sat for nearly an hour with our local Girl Guides and answered questions that led us into a fantastic conversation. Encouraging students of all ages to understand the value of voting, and how much strength they will have as voters is a key goal of the Student Election program and all of the kids talked a lot about how they had experience with that program.

One of the questions that gave me pause though, was from a young lady who wanted to know how she could get the real information in a world that spins misinformation so quickly. If some newspapers get it wrong, with social media intentionally misleading all of us, how will she know who to vote for?

The influence and ability to persuade are things that absolutely concern me as not only a Mayor but as a voter. I think all of the time I have enough critical reading skills to get it right, but every now and then I find myself reading an article about a municipality I am familiar with and when I follow up, the piece is just factually incorrect.

We talked a lot about kindness and evaluating candidates, not their personal lives. I told the kids that in all honesty, that was the hardest part of the election. Online cruelty, misinformation, a few people claiming to know you. Social media, in fact, is now impacting people’s decision to even enter politics.

For me, the truth is that I didn’t consider being a female when I chose to run for public office. I ran for office because local government continues to be the level of government that impacts people’s daily lives, and I saw an opportunity to represent Fernie in a meaningful way.

Councillor Prest commented, “As for myself, I would just like to share that regardless of gender it is our credentials and ability to justify our decision-making processes with clear evidence and public input that make us successful politicians.”

I hope to see more women filling seats, but if we want to encourage that let’s be mindful of how to evaluate candidates without being cruel. Particularly online, which rarely brings meaningful discourse.

These young ladies are already thinking about how to participate in politics, how to continue to ask questions and evaluate any candidate now or into the future asking for their vote.

What a fantastic conversation with these Girl Guides, and if this is our future, I think we will be alright. None of us should be underestimating youth.