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Original photos by Laurel L. Russwurm, Trent University and Future Majority. Edited by Danny Taro and Brazil Gaffney-Knox.

Future Majority Puts Minister Monsef, Mayor Therrien in the Hot Seat

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November 24, 2020
Future Majority Puts Minister Monsef, Mayor Therrien in the Hot Seat
Original photos by Laurel L. Russwurm, Trent University and Future Majority. Edited by Danny Taro and Brazil Gaffney-Knox.

Future Majority is a non-partisan organization that seeks to mobilize and engage young Canadians in all levels of democracy. Political institutions consider the youth vote to be sporadic and as a result, political parties tend to under-serve young voters. Future Majority is confronting Canadian politics with the reality that Millennials and GenZs constitute approximately 40% of Canada’s electorate. The youth vote is the only path to winning elections and it is about time political parties start prioritizing the needs of young voters. 

On November 12, the Peterborough branch of Future Majority hosted a Digital Town Hall For A Green and Just Recovery with Mayor Diane Therrien and Member of Parliament Maryam Monsef. The event was well attended with over hundred-thirty people on the Zoom call and over two thousands views on the Future Majority Facebook live stream. The forum addressed federal and municipal approaches to financial assistance for post-secondary education, sustainable and secure jobs, racial justice and the transition to a carbon neutral economy. The docket was cramped for the hour of allocated time. 

Screenshot of the participants during the Digital Town Hall. Courtesy of Future Majority.

Issue 1: Post Secondary Financial Aid

Trent Central Student Association President, Ann-Majella McKelvie posited:

Overall, students feel left behind by their government and more action must be taken to address this issue of underfunded education… I would love to know what our federal government as well as our municipal government can do to increase capacity to assist students?

Minister Monsef replied: 

My first offer to those on the line is I would be much more effective as your member of parliament if you reached out to my office and let me know this stuff is happening. One of the services we offer is to help navigate the existing programs for anybody in the community. The second thing that we can be helpful for… is to advocate on your behalf in Ottawa... I actually haven’t been hearing from students.

Minister Monsef referenced the WE Charity debacle; the scandal that stymied the Liberals' plan to create 900 million dollars worth of Canada Student Service Grants. She stated that: 

Much of it did get out but a big chunk of it we are still refining and trying to put forward in a better way. That’s why a space where hearing from you directly on how to channel the next phase of supports for student funding would be helpful…

Mayor Therrien commented that although post secondary institutions don’t fall under the jurisdiction of municipal governments, Trent students are implicated in municipal politics through housing and transit. Stating:

One thing we can do as city council is advocate. It's something that I can flag with our provincial representative. We are always open to hearing ideas about how those services better serve students and make things a bit easier for you folks because it is such a tough time.

Issue 2: Sustainable and Secure Jobs

Future Majority volunteer and Master of Ceremonies for the event, Elenor Morano, shared an anecdote about her difficulty in finding meaningful work in sustainable sectors. She highlighted the importance of intersectionality between job creation and greening our economy and asked: 

How do we assure a transition to a clean economy while protecting livelihoods?

Minister Monsef replied in part: 

Before Covid we (the Liberal Government) supported the creation of over a million new jobs… For people who have traditionally been left out of the workforce. People with disabilities, women, Indigenous people, racialized folks, young people.

Minister Monsef noted that in order to have a robust economy, Canada must recover from COVID-19, provide affordable high speed internet to all Canadians, create accessible childcare, and confront gender based violence.

One of the areas that is a limiting factor for a green recovery as we stand right now is a skilled workforce… Be ready for a really ambitious green recovery… Be ready to pursue the exciting jobs of the future.

Mayor Therrien replied:

Thanks to funding from the Federal Government … Peterborough is finally getting a Green waste program ... This is a huge investment that will be creating jobs and diverging a huge amount of waste from our landfills.”

Issue 3: Racial Justice 

Future Majority Peterborough’s Lead Fellow, Chanté White, shared a discouraging story of a racist encounter she endured while using Peterborough Transit. Chanté asked the panel: 

Do you support action for racial justice regarding systemic racism against brown, Black and Indigenous people? 

Minister Monsef replied that we have to:

…address an institution that is not designed to address people who are different. Nor is it designed to address power imbalances … We are keeping track of gender and race disaggregated data for the first time in Canada’s History. People who didn’t count before are now counted … the Black entrepreneurship fund, the economic justice and economic recovery piece is a really important part of that ... there are community funds available to support the community building piece that needs to happen … healing needs to begin.

Mayor Therrien replied...

(Racism) is too pervasive. It’s too common …  Locally, there’s few of the things that we are doing. We applied for funding for a Diversity and Inclusion Officer … We are behind where we should be. The city staff is very white and we do have a long way to go in changing that culture.

The Future Majority timekeeper kept to the allocated time and muted the politicians. Minister Monsef noted that considering the sensitive nature of the topics she needed more time to share analysis. She stated: 

This is one of those issues where the ninety second sound bites do all of us injustice ... May I suggest a separate conversation- specifically around diversity, inclusion and racial justice? There is a reckoning happening around the world and in Peterborough.

TCSA President Ann-Majella McKelvie tells Arthur that the TCSA has reached out to Minister Monsef's office to schedule a followup meeting and they plan to convene in December.

Minister Monsef and Diane Therrien were generous with their time but the ambitious agenda made for digressive conversation. The management of the forum was uneconomic, with too little time designated for the politicians’ responses. A big component of Future Majority’s strategy is reaching young people through social media. The organization needs to walk a fine line between creating a fun environment while also maintaining a substantive discourse. 

Arthur is looking forward to the meeting between Minister Monsef’s office and the TCSA. Hopefully the student union will be able to secure an effective relationship with our federal Member of Parliament.

Volunteer, Ginny Connor stated in the Future majority press release: 

We didn’t organize these to complain. Of course young folks aren’t the only ones suffering from the pandemic and the economic crisis. We organized these events because we want young Canadians to be a big part of the solution. And to show our MPs that we’re ready to help create a Green and Just recovery!

You can watch the town hall here and learn more about the organization at futuremajority.ca

Lady Eaton College and Forensic Science Society
ReFrame 2021
Teaching Awards by The Centre for Teaching and Learning at Trent
Arthur News School of Fish
Sponsored
Lady Eaton College and Forensic Science Society
ReFrame 2021
Teaching Awards by The Centre for Teaching and Learning at Trent
Arthur News School of Fish

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