In his first press conference since being named Prime-Minister-for-a-Week on Tuesday, PJ (Prabjote) Lakhanpal said that the economy will be the top priority for his mandate.
“For me, I always look at the economy first and everything else takes a back seat. Once the economy is back on track, that’s when I start looking at everything else,” he told reporters.
In what he called a “pretty amazing” day, the Toronto teen toured Parliament Wednesday, participated in a swearing-in ceremony and held a scrum outside the House of Commons as part of his duties.
Lakhanpal, who has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma but is currently in remission, is visiting Ottawa for five days, as part of a trip arranged by Make-A-Wish Canada. His wish: to become Prime Minister.
“I wanted something that money couldn’t buy and I wanted to get something that very few people have done,” said Lakhanpal, when asked why he wished to become Prime Minister.
But it may have been fast food that lead him to Parliament Hill.
“The night before, I had Harvey’s so I was all loopy and confused. That’s usually what happens to me after I eat fast food,” he said. When the Make-A-Wish people came the next day to ask him what his wish was, “I literally came up with it on the spot. I said, ‘This is what I want.’”
And when the news came that his wish was coming true, his family was ecstatic. “At that point, we were screaming. I said, ‘Oh… and the derogatory term for excrement’. I was jumping up and down. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Lakhanpal was sworn in as an honourary Senate page in the morning, joining 15 other pages in a ceremony in the Senate chamber. Senate Speaker George Furey extended a “very special welcome” to PJ, on his “second day of being Prime Minister.”
Upon leaving the Senate, Lakhanpal was stopped, like many politicians are, by a reporter as he waited for a moment between events. He told the reporter that he hoped to emulate former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, because “he had his charismatic personality, and that’s kind of who I am.”
“I’m not the kind of person who is dull all the time. I like to be outgoing,’ he said.
At 19, Lakhanpal is a little old to be participating in a Make-A-Wish program, but the wish took some time to arrange. He made the wish in December 2013, he said, and he was originally supposed to have his week in power in August 2015. But, a conflict with a special family prayer event meant he had to reschedule.
Either way, he’s happy to be in Ottawa now.
“I was just saying how I’m through the roof right now. I was just telling one of the people who organized this event, Justin, I was telling him how I’m no longer in the Milky Way galaxy, I’ve entered Star Wars territory at this point. That’s how happy I am.”
Lakhanpal met with Canada’s other prime minister late Thursday afternoon, followed by dinner in the Parliament Hill restaurant. He will visit the Supreme Court later in the week, and hold a second official press conference on Friday in the National Press Theatre. His trip is being chronicled on the Make-A-Wish Canada Twitter account.
He plans to return to Parliament someday too. “It seems like a tough life, but I’ve battled cancer, there’s nothing worse than that. So I’m ready to take this on in the future.”
And when asked if that meant he was running for office, Lakhanpal quoted one of his favourite politicians.
“Just watch me.”