Touring the legislative assembly where the issues of the day are debated and the province’s laws are made is one of the highlights for participants in the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) summer program.
While at Queen’s Park, the high school students also get to meet and interact with some Members of Provincial Parliament and the Premier.
Last Friday, Premier Kathleen Wynne – accompanied by Minister of Children & Youth Services, Tracy MacCharles – made time to talk to the youth and field questions.
The YIPI program is a component of the province’s Youth Opportunities Strategy, conceived to help young people facing barriers achieve success. In 2008, the program was permanently incorporated into the Ontario government’s list of youth programs and a year later, the Ministry of Children & Youth Services expanded its funding to the program to accommodate a 50 per cent increase in hires.
“It’s an honour to be part of providing a program like this and one for all of you to have an experience in a summer job,” said Wynne. “It’s exactly what I think government exists to do and that is to give people opportunities. We do that in all sorts of ways. We do that through the education and health care systems, job creation in industry and through opportunity for young people to really get some insight into what a particular working environment would look like and what some kind of career paths might be. I think these are experiences that can perhaps help you decide what it is you want to do going forward.”
Last October, Wynne engaged high school students through a live Google hangout chat. The students mainly asked questions pertaining to jobs while they are in school and after they secure post-secondary education.
When asked if she will participate in a Google chat again, Wynne assured the students she will continue in her quest to find ways to get input from young people.
“I have said to my staff that I want to do that again,” she said. “I have been to schools and had conversations with students, but I haven’t actually had a Google chat. Sometimes, it takes a while for these things to get set up. We just went through an election campaign and we were into the summer. There were questions about bussing and support for students. All of that is what I call grist for the mill. It all goes into our considerations as we develop policies.”
The Premier was also asked how it feels to lead a majority government.
In last June’s provincial elections, Wynne led the Liberals to a fourth straight electoral triumph and a return to majority status in the house for first time in three years.
“The transition from a minority government to a majority has been a very pleasant one,” she told the students ranging in age from 15-18. “The reason we are happy about that is that we went through an election campaign where there were a lot of odds against us. People didn’t think we were going to win. We ran a good campaign, we did what we set out to do and now we have the permission of the province to implement the plan that we ran on. So, when we had the first vote in the house, we didn’t have to be holding on to the edge of our seats to see if the vote was going to pass and the budget was going to pass.
“We were very excited about that because what that means is that we can now move to implement the things that are in our budget. We think those are good things – investing in transit, making sure that people with developmental disabilities have more money and support, making sure that people who are personal support workers have more money to be able to look after the sick and elderly in their homes and ensuring that we continue to have the 30 per cent off tuition grants for students as they go onto university and college. So, those things we can now implement and know we have the numbers to do them.”
MacCharles was at police headquarters in late June to welcome this year’s intake.
“This program is very important to us as a government and I hope it has given you a meaningful experience,” she said.
The Pickering-Scarborough East MPP reminded this year’s participants that they were fortunate to be accepted.
Close to 1,100 young people applied to be part of this year’s summer program.
“With this experience, you will live on as role models in your community,” said MacCharles.
Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School Grade 12 student, Raekquan Reece, welcomed the opportunity to visit Queen’s Park.
“It’s the first time I have been in the building and that was quite an opportunity,” he said. “I found the Premier to be quite cool and sociable after thinking at first that it was going to be overwhelming for us in her presence.”
A total of 1,271 young people have been part of the initiative since it was launched nine years ago. The program caters to young people facing significant challenges, including finding summer employment.