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Local government week bringing kids into council chambers

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

The Town of Petrolia are celebrating local government week by inviting students to a council meeting. (File photo)

The Town of Petrolia are celebrating local government week by inviting students to a council meeting. (File photo)

The Town of Petrolia have invited two grade five classes to attend a council meeting on Oct. 23. Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson said as part of local government week, which is held every October in Ontario, students will experience a real meeting, and it will be business as usual.

 

Pearson said this isn’t the first time they’ve brought students into the council chambers – they also held a meeting classes attended back in 2013. Over the years, Pearson has brought municipal government to classes, discussing what council does and giving kids the chance to ask questions.

 

“Having understanding goes a long way,” she said.

 

Pearson said it’s a great opportunity to teach kids about politics in their own back yard – while students may know about federal and provincial levels of government, she aims to get them to understand politics that affect them locally. In turn, she hopes this will engage young people in the community.

 

“You can’t always assume governance is spoken about in families, and they get an overall of governance in school,” she said. “But it’s important for them to understand their municipality and what we do as a different layer of government.”

 

Pearson said with the right education and tools, it gives younger generations the opportunity to take an active role in local politics, whether that is becoming a politician or engaging in discussions at the grassroots level.

 

“We talk about jobs, too…because maybe a municipal career path is something they could be interested in,” she said. “It gives them something to think about, it’s not just all about the federal level.”

 

Pearson said it’s a fun way to introduce local government to kids, and she gives Mayor John McCharles credit for being so open to community engagement. By introducing the kids to their local leaders, it breaks down barriers and gives them a chance to see them as people they can share their ideas or concerns with.

 

“To let them know that they themselves can be involved, I think is huge,” she said. “They want them as a council to be seen as someone in the community that youth can rely upon.”

 

mschilz@postmedia.com