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Teens take over MLA positions in the legislative assembly

Cara Loverock
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 28, 2008

YELLOWKNIFE - At least one NWT youth may be at the helm of future political decisions in the North following a mock legislative session held last week.

High school students from across the territory took over the legislative assembly filling the positions of much older MLAs.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Rochelle Hilderman, acting as MLA for Yellowknife South, and Nicole Labine, filling in as MLA for Thebacha, are high school students who took part in the youth parliament. The students spent an afternoon in the legislative assembly and took part in a youth session to get a better understanding and interest in politics. - Cara Loverock/ NNSL photo

Youth parliament was in session last Thursday, bringing together high school students from around the NWT to learn how the government operates and get a shot at running things themselves.

Nicole Labine of Fort Smith represented the Thebacha riding. During the session she argued against the motion put forth by the students to ban electronic devices in classrooms.

"It should be up to the teacher. The government should not step in," said Labine during the discussion.

Speaking during the break, Labine said the experience has her considering a future career in politics.

"Maybe. This was really interesting," she said.

"At first I was nervous (when the session began). But then things started to get relaxed and it was really fun."

She said the environment is a major issue, especially for young people.

"We're the future," said Labine.

Many MLAs took a back seat and watched the youth at work from the gallery, including Premier Floyd Roland.

Tony Whitford, commissioner of the NWT, gave opening remarks. He said the "bright and talented students" were chosen in order to create an interest in politics among the North's young people.

Prominent topics chosen for discussion during the session largely focused on the environment, and social and health care issues, such as climate change, better access to addictions treatment, and eye care in smaller communities.

Rochelle Hilderman, acting as MLA for Yellowknife South, brought up the issue of energy efficiency. During the session she said, "The use of energy in the Northwest Territories is extreme ... We the government should be setting an example."

When speaking after the session, Hilderman, a student at Sir John Franklin high school, said the youth parliament has provided her great insight into the way the government works.

"It's totally changed my point of view," she said. "It's giving us a chance as youth to say what we find (important)."

Bob Bromley, MLA for Weledeh, said he was impressed with how enthusiastic and professional the students were in the program.

"I'm pretty much in line with what a lot of them are saying," said Bromley. "They're really defining the issues well."

The education outreach program is in its ninth year and notably had a higher number of girls than boys with a ratio of 15 to four.