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Youth set to challenge the status quo this election

Gerry Chidiac


Lessons in Learning

The Dalai Lama recently tweeted: “I am encouraged to see young people trying to bring about positive change. Confident because their efforts are based on truth and reason -therefore they will succeed.”

As one who works with young people, I find these words so encouraging. As I look around me, I see that they are very true.

The American political system was set aflame when 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was elected to Congress in 2018. Regardless of what one thinks of her opinions, it is clear that she has a deep love for the democratic process. She is brilliant, idealistic and well-informed, and she is not afraid to challenge the integrity of those more than twice her age. In a time of cynicism and despair, she has been a beacon of hope.

Across the Atlantic, another even younger woman has pricked the conscience of a complacent society. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old who came to public attention last year for boycotting school to picket the Swedish parliament. She is autistic and states that she has selective mutism, only speaking when she feels it is important. She believes the climate crisis is very important and has given a Ted talk, spoken to government representatives and addressed the European Union on the issue.

She has also encouraged student protests around the world on the climate crisis. She recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a carbon-neutral ship to speak at the United Nations in New York. While adults continue to debate the significance of global warming, Thunberg calls for action today, pointing out the negative impact complacent adults are having on the future, her future.

Great leaders inspire others to embrace their greatness. Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg are not only creating waves by their actions, more importantly, they are demonstrating what can be done to make our world better. Apathy is a myth. If we dare to stand forward for what we believe in, we will make an impact.

Twenty-two-year-old Cariboo-Prince George Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr clearly understands this concept. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she will take on a well-established member of a very strong federal political party in an effort to be elected. Conservative Todd Doherty is well respected and has worked very hard to earn the trust of his constituents. The leader of his party, however, does not hold the same esteem as Elizabeth May, the leader of Kerr’s party, who is seen by many Canadians as the conscience of Parliament. In addition, the Conservative platform does not give the same attention to environmental issues as the Greens, and as Thunberg demonstrates, that is a major issue among younger voters.

Kerr grew up in Prince George and was a national ambassador for 4-H. She not only learned about agriculture but leadership and public speaking as well. At UNBC, Kerr is majoring in forestry, with a minor in environmental studies. This is why she is focussing on a sustainable forest industry. It’s an issue which is extremely prevalent for residents of northern B.C. who are concerned about long-term employment. She also envisions a new economy, making renewable energy affordable and accessible for all Canadians.

Though the result of this fall’s federal election is far from being determined, several things are already certain. The climate crisis is an important issue for many Canadians, and leaders like Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg have empowered and inspired youthful voters. A number of young candidates have already announced that they are running in this election, and some of them will be elected. It is up to the voters of Cariboo-Prince George, however, to determine whether or not Mackenzie Kerr will be among them.

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