Mr. Jacques Guilbault (Saini-Jacques):
Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to speak in this house since my election and I must say I cannot but be moved by applause, not yet deserved, coming from the hon. members from all sides of the house.
I should like first of all to congratulate sincerely the hon. member for Palliser (Mr. Schumacher) for having brought in this project that 1 would call a youth parliament. The hon. member for Palliser is a young member, like me, and I believe this project concerning youth suits him well and that he owed it to himself to bring it in.
I heard about such projects of youth parliament a long time ago and I was quite interested by it. I now have the opportunity to support this motion. The main reason why I support it is the deplorable lack of interest in Canada for federal politics.
Youth Extension Program
From one election to another, in the various ridings, candidates spend huge amounts not only to get elected but also to interest people in politics, to stir them up, to induce them to discuss and to vote.
In my riding, I noticed that despite the efforts made by six candidates during a month and a half, not even 50 per cent of the people cared to vote. Such a lack of interest stems undoubtedly from the fact that people are not informed, and a youth parliament will be a means to interest this sector of the population that will be the electorate of to-morrow, i.e. our youth. That is why I want to support this project of a youth parliament.
This program will have unquestionable advantages, the major one being political education. Today's youth, as other speakers said earlier, are ill-informed in school on the subject of politics and parliamentary institutions. Today's youth are disputatious and they insist on their rights; they insist, from day to day, from month to month, on getting more and more from governments. They do not know much, however, about the responsibilities of a minister; they do not know much about budgets. While they demand, they often forget that to give, a government must take from the taxpayers' pockets. There is a lack of political education when people are always begging for something, without realizing that money has to come from somewhere.
In my opinion, a youth parliament, a model parliament of that type, would enable young Canadians to be initiated in all the complicated aspects of the Canadian political life and to familiarize themselves with the good as well as with the bad sides of things. On returning home they would be in a position to communicate their enthusiasm to other young people in their surroundings and as I was saying before, stimulating a political interest in today's youth is creating a sense of responsibility in tomorrow's electors.
There are other advantages also. In fact, a youth parliament would constitute a forum for discussion. The young of today have much to say. They want to be heard and they are heard. In the universities, student committees demand joint management, joint government. Everywhere, youth wants to be heard. However, on political matters, they have no outlets except through young people political associations across the country. Yet those associations are based on political partisanship.
Now, that youth parliament would offer the young man or the young woman who wishes
Youth Extension Program to discuss politics in a non partisan fashion, a forum, a place from which to put their opinions before the land.
Likewise, let us not forget that this youth parliament could constitute a source of new ideas. The present government has already innovated since it has come to power and it will blaze even newer trails.
There is talk of parliamentary reform, of many things to come. Still, let us not forget that it is up to the people to bring new ideas to the fore, and if that is so, on whom can we bank more than on the young people, on those who are never content with the status quo and who wish to challenge everything and everybody.
To my mind, a model parliament, a youth parliament, could be a source of new ideas which could help Canadian administrators to modernize both present structures and plans.
In addition, a model parliament, a youth parliament could perhaps become a means of action. Our young people-let us face it-do not have any very specific mode of action when it comes to achieving their ambitions from a political point of view. And so, we see them demonstrating, marching, walking about with placards, at times even indulging in violence. That violence we witness comes from somewhere; it stems from a deep feeling of frustration in the young people who have no means of action. They see no other means than that, so they resort to the most obvious: violence and demonstrations which threaten law and order.
A youth parliament could channel those energies and offer, at long last, to our young people, bubbling over with energy, an outlet through which they might give vent to their ideas and achieve their objectives.
Finally, looking at the shape of things to come, we see that we will soon have to revise the Canadian constitution. We will have to bring the people of Canada to accept upheavals. We will have to change an aging constitution, over a hundred years old, which hardly anyone understands completely.
Has the time now not come to support a project such as the youth parliament so that the people can develop an interest in public affairs? They will soon have to decide what constitution we will need for our second centenary, for constitutions do not change often. Now, if the people are to choose the men who will lead the government and make decisions, if the people have perhaps to vote by referendum on some aspects of the constitution-this, we do not know yet-today is the
DEBATES December 2, 1968
time to stir their interest at grass roots, level by stirring the interest of the young people and setting up a youth parliament.
I should like to refer to a term used during the election campaign: We should have a policy of participation. Well, the policy of participation can no doubt exist in many ways, but this youth parliament suggested by the hon. member seems to me a good starting point and, before we involve all the people in the participatory process we should start with political education and this youth parliament seems to me a good way of going about it.
The concept of a youth parliament, Mr. Speaker, is one which has tremendous potential for beneficial results. Each year hundreds of young Canadians would be able to return to their homes in the various parts of our nation having had first hand experience of the workings of federal government. They would be able to communicate to their communities their own newly awakened enthusiasm and knowledge concerning our tradition of federal parliamentary government. This is why I would like this house to underwrite the motion.
[DOT] (6:50 p.m.)
Topic: YOUTH EXTENSION PROGRAM
Subtopic: SUGGESTED PROMOTION OF INTEREST IN PARLIAMENT AND THE CONSTITUTION