It’s often said that when politicians debate they sometimes act like kids.
But sometimes kids act like politicians.
“It’s like you’re back into primary school,” laughs Charlotte Poudade. “Everyone is bickering and everyone is like I’m so not about this and some people don’t revise what they’re reading.”
She was talking about a debate among one of 85 high school students who held a mock city council meeting at Montreal City Hall. Her role was mayor.
The exercise was organized partly by the Montreal Youth Council who try to bring city politics closer to young people. They partnered with the SEUR Project at the University of Montreal which organizes activities to encourage youth retention in high school.
This is the second consecutive year they’re having this exercise with high school kids.
“It’s to raise awareness about how to be an active citizen,” explains Rayane Zahal of the Youth Council. “I think it’s an empowering experience for them to learn that they can have a word to say in society and that they can change things around them.”
Fifteen-year-old student Philippe Villiard sees it as a step in passing the torch. He played the role of Opposition leader.
“We need to replace the old people or the people who will die in the municipality of Montreal,” he grins. “So we need to have great ideas and to know how to express ourselves and things like that.
He wants to vote when he comes of age but he understands why more young people aren’t interested.
“I think because nobody talks about politics at our age,” he tells Global News. “It’s like things for grown-ups that they think is beyond our grasp.”
So exercises like this do help. Poudade has a new appreciation for politicians.
“A politician’s job is really difficult,” she exclaims. “You have to work with so many different people that most of them aren’t going to agree on anything you’re going to say, just because you’re not in the same party!”
Whatever the kids learn from the exercise, there’s one message organizers hope they get.
“Politics isn’t just voting,” stresses Mélanie Ederer, one of the organizers from the Montreal Youth Council. “It’s to be open about what’s happening, to be critical about what’s happening and to involve yourself in any way that you can.