Youth Perspectives | Ontario’s Future Depends on Youth: The Perspective of a South Korean International Student New to Canadian Politics
by Jae Woong Han
Age 19, 1st Year Bachelor of Social Work, York University
YouthREX Youth Research Assistant
On May 7, 2018, four YouthREX Youth Research Assistants attended a youth-focused town hall hosted by Laidlaw Foundation, TVO, For Youth Initiative, and Twitter Canada. There, leaders from three of Ontario's political parties described their platforms and answered audience questions. In this blog, Jae Woong Han shares his thoughts on the experience as a newcomer and international student ahead of the June 7th Provincial Election.
On May 7th, I participated in a youth town hall meeting, where the leaders of three major political parties in Ontario came to discuss the question “What is the next premier of Ontario going to do for young people?” in front of young Ontarians under the age of 29. The discussion was streamed live on TV Ontario, and questions were asked either through Twitter or directly from the in-person audience.
As an international student at York University waiting for the strike to be finished, participating in this event was a great opportunity for me to learn about Ontario politics. I had to listen carefully to each leader’s opinion and their political perspectives, as their views might affect my future status in Ontario.
Before and after the event, myself and other YouthREX Youth Research Assistants interviewed other young people about their opinions about the election and thoughts about the event. As a research team, we collected interesting perspectives and thoughts (see an example of one participant's response, below).
Even though I was prepared with questions for each party leader, I was afraid to bring up these issues, and I knew I would not get a chance to ask them all.
Andrea Horwath, the leader of Ontario’s NDP, came to talk about the issues first. As I listened to her story and her political perspective, I wanted to ask a question about high international student tuition rates in Ontario. As Horwath said that she had worked with and helped newcomers, I had a feeling she could understand this issue and might have a good response. Unfortunately, her Q&A section ran out of time.
Instead of posing a question to Andrea Horwath, I got the chance to ask one question to Kathleen Wynne, the current premier of Ontario. First, I was thinking about asking her the same question about high tuition rates for international students. However, my colleague suggested that I ask a question about the York University strike. Since I am also experiencing the strike and want it to end as soon as possible, I decided to ask a question about what she will do now that the strike has entered its 10th week. I was excited to ask this question, because I know many people at York University are stressed about it, and that many of these people are youth. Although her answer was not definitive, it was significant to hear that the government is actively working to resolve this long conflict. It is frustrating for the majority of York University students, so I hope the conflict will be resolved as soon as possible.
The final candidate to speak was Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party. While he talked about his political beliefs, he mostly focused on the issue of environmental change. He was the only candidate who talked about the future of Ontario and discussed young Ontarians in terms of “hope” – for kids and a better future.
All three of the candidates asked young Ontarians to vote and to think about the future of Ontario.
There were lots of questions from the audience about what Ontario needs, such as more support for medical care and pharmacare, equal opportunity for education, lack of transportation systems in northern Ontario, need for more childcare, ongoing issues of racism, climate change, and so on.
The meeting was filled with enthusiasm. By seeing the audience's and the candidates' active discussion about this topic, I can see the hopes for the future development of Ontario, and learned there are many things that need to be fixed. I even saw similarity with my country, South Korea, in the way the event used Twitter, since we use a lot of social media in relation to politics.
From this event, I wish there was more involvement of youth in politics to make society a better place. Again, it was a great experience for me to see a lot of great people and learn about each candidate’s leadership style and political perspectives related to youth and the future of Ontario. Above all, everyone involved with the event had one thing in common: they want to make Ontario a better province and are aware of the significance of youth in that mission. I appreciate YouthREX for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn about Ontario politics.