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Queen's Model Parliament heading to the Hill

[Queen's Model Parliament]
Students participating in last year's Queen's Model Parliament enter the House of Commons. (Supplied photo)

The House of Commons will take on a decidedly youthful look this week.

A group of 330 students from Queen’s University will be in Ottawa for Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP), a three-day event starting Wednesday that will see them forming political parties, drafting legislation and engaging in debate on issues of the day in the House of Commons itself.

While several other post-secondary institutions have similar programs, QMP, at 68 years and counting, was the first to actually be held in the House of Commons and is the longest at three days.

According to Read Leask (Artsci’17), QMP co-chair along with Lucia Guerrero (Artsci’15), the focus of the conference is to engage youth in the nation’s political process with experiences that can’t be gained through the classroom or textbooks.

“We bring 330 delegates and our goal is not to create 330 Members of Parliament or future leaders. Our goal is to make 330 engaged citizens who are very informed about the political process in Canada,” he says. “That is what they gain. They gain the skills of being able to know how to write an actual parliamentary bill, how to participate in a parliamentary debate.”

Another difference, Mr. Leask points out, is that QMP brings in a different member of political life to preside over each bill.

“So that gives us the opportunity to bring about 20 speakers over the course of the three days,” he says. “There’s a huge diversity in opinions and ideas that the students are exposed to from these leaders.”

Last year’s event drew such political names as Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Kingston and the Islands MP Ted Hsu and former Speaker of the House and current Fellow at Queen’s Peter Milliken.

New to this year’s edition is a panel discussion with high-profile members of Parliament Hill’s press corps to give students an inside view of the media.

While the debates and bills passed are not binding, the debates are real and delegates prepare for months by attending weekly meetings where they learn about the political process.

This year’s QMP is being held Jan. 14-17. For more information visit queensmp.ca.