#onpoli newsletter - The students asked. Steve and John Michael answered

The kids are, in fact, going to be alright
By Eric Bombicino - Published on Oct 29, 2019
Two people at a table in front of a group of university students in a lecture hall.
Ryerson University students line up to ask Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath questions.

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Hello, #onpoli people,

I am happy to inform you that the kids are, in fact, going to be alright (or at the least the ones in Karim Bardeesy’s undergraduate class at Ryerson University’s Leadership Lab are. I don’t know about the rest).

For our final episode of the season, co-hosts Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath left the cozy confines of our recording bunker here at the TVO offices and set up shop at an upper-year elective class called Making the Future, where students focus on the most pressing challenges of our time. For more than an hour, they peppered Steve and John Michael with questions about the election results — what they mean and what comes next.

Here are some of the questions they asked: 

From Graham:

“The federal-provincial outlook for Trudeau is a lot less sunny than it was in 2015. You have four premiers who are very conservative and who want to scrap the carbon tax and build a pipeline. And then you have two premiers who don’t want a pipeline. What does Trudeau have to do to manage his relationship with these first ministers?”

“Pray,” Steve said, to laughter from the class. “You have quite expertly analyzed why this is such a difficult country to govern. There is an old expression that Canada has not enough history and too much geography. And it’s true.”

“We have rules of federalism which the United Kingdom doesn’t have to worry about, for example,” Steve said. “They have got their own problems for their own reasons, but one of them is not the prime minister having to negotiate with provincial premiers in Great Britain in order to get stuff done. But that is our system. And, you know, bless me if you are able to figure out a way out of this one.”

From Victoria: 

“Would the minority government influence bigger actions when it comes to the climate-change situation?”

John Michael noted that the Liberals already had a strong climate plan before the election and will now be backed by the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, and the Greens, all of which have indicated that they support bold action: “It would not surprise me if you saw even more ambition on climate change than they were promising in their platform.”

All this, however, comes with one big caveat: “The Parliament may not last longer than two years,” John Michael said. Canada has had seven minority governments since 1963; most have lasted about 24 months.

“They also have one other little headache,” Steve said. “They own a pipeline.”

“On the one hand, they want to do stuff that promotes an antidote to climate change,” he said. On the other hand, they got electorally wiped out in Alberta and Saskatchewan: “Are you even a national party anymore if you’re getting 10 per cent of the vote in Western Canada?”

From Ahmed: 

“Given the increase in the Bloc Québécois seats from 10 in 2015 to 32 in this election, what do you think is the future of Quebec as a Canadian province?”

“The Bloc Québécois surge is not the same as previous surges,” Steve said. “In the past, it really was an indication of a group of people whose prime mission was to take Quebec out of Canada.”

Not this time around, though, he said, noting that this Bloc Québécois surge was about securing representation of Quebec’s interests in parliament: “Separation is a back-burner thing for the moment.”

Two men sit at a table. Bright blue and red backpack seen at their feet.
You would think that backpack belonged to a first year university student leaving home for the first time in his life and tentatively taking his first few steps on his journey to adulthood. But no, it’s Steve’s!

From Ubah:

“In 2015, we saw an increase of 18.3 per cent among eligible voters aged 18 to 24. Still, young voters underperform compared to any other age group. What do you think is the right approach to tackle this issue while still involving the voices of young people?”

“It is the perennial problem in politics,” John Michael said. “It’s like cracking nuclear fusion.” He did put an idea on the table — one that he called “the only serious policy prescription” he has seen for boosting youth turnout: lowering the voting age.

If you lower the age to 16, he continued, students will still be in secondary school. “You can walk the kids from the classroom to the gym on voting day and get them to vote,” he said. “Maybe.”

“I want to know why you young people constantly break the hearts of politicians and campaign managers,” Steve.

“I think that it’s because young people don’t see themselves represented in those conversations,” Uba replied. “They feel like their voices don’t matter.” She added, “I didn’t really feel any one of them stood out to me that was going to address my issues as a student.”

“The Greens were promising free university and college tuition,” Steve countered. “Doesn’t that interest you?”

“I’m going to graduate,” Uba responded. “By the time free tuition is going to be available, I would have already graduated.”

But you know whom it would have been available to? Those 16-year-olds who would have been voting for the first time in their lives — had the voting age been lowered.

These are just a few of the questions this bright and engaged class fired at Steve and John Michael. You can check out the episode here.

We’ve had a ton of great questions and feedback from all of you this season. Thank you! We’ll be back with a new season of the podcast in the months to come. But, for now, the newsletter lives on. The inimitable Daniel Kitts will be taking over for the month of November. So please keep your questions coming, and we’ll get to them in the next few newsletters.

That's all for this week!

Eric Bombicino

#onpoli producer

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