Young people may get a say in Petrolia politics

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Petrolia Councillor Grant Purdy wants to see more young people involved in local politics.

He’s proposing the town set up a youth committee to get ideas from local teens. Purdy would like 10 young people from the community between the ages of 13 and 18 to “act as an advisory board to Petrolia Council…identify and bring forward issues affecting youth…and encourage members to become familiar with the workings of local government” according to the Terms of Reference he drew up.

Councillor Tim Brown – a youth pastor at New Life – supported Purdy’s idea saying he wanted to see teens with different interests involved. “When you get a group of youth together, it is important that the youth from different areas are all represented,” he says. “I’d like to see some teens from the community centre, some from hockey, some representing the skateboard crew, local youth groups.”

Councillor Joel Field agreed but voiced concern the youth committee might duplicate opportunities already available for young people.

“We have committees representing everything about our town…and we can have youth members on these committees. I could see us making a push for that.”

Then, Field says, the youth members of town committees could get together for a “Youth Summit” once or twice a year to share ideas. He suggested connecting with organizations including service clubs who deal with youth issues to be involved.

“I don’t want it to be just 10 kids who want the skateboard park who put up their hands (to serve),” says Field. “We do need to have the voice for those kids…I would really like to tap into what’s being done now.”

But Councillor Ross O’Hara  isn’t sure adding youth to established committees would accomplish the same thing. “What Councillor Purdy is suggesting is a little different than have a couple of youth on a committee with adults where they’re overshadowed.”

Purdy agreed. “There are a number of these up near Toronto…they focus specifically on youth and the concerns they have. If they get on (existing) committees, they’re lost in translation. This is a specific committee for youth to have a say on what they feel is important.”

Other councillors expressed concern about the size of the group – saying it might be unwieldy and who would supervise the committee.

The idea has been sent to staff to figure out just how a committee might work and whether local service clubs would play a role in it.

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