Student calls Legislative Page Program an “Experience that Changed my life”
Tegan Elliott, a Grade 8 student at Glen Brae, had the honour of serving as a Legislative Page at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto for four weeks this fall. This is her first-hand account of her experience.
The Page Program was an experience that changed my life. I first found out that I got in on July 14, 2016. That’s when I started to memorize the names of the MPPs. (Each Member’s name, riding, as well as all Ministerial titles and the exact seating plan. Pages were tested on this and needed an 80 per cent to pass, just days after starting).
Fast forward to my first day, when we received an all-new seating plan to memorize! Because they called a new Throne Speech, on my first day I got to do the Honour Guard (at attention while Premier and Lieutenant Governor enter).
One memorable experience is when I got to deliver the paperwork of Paul Miller’s (MPP Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, our home riding) Poverty Bill from him to the Speaker. The same day, I got to have lunch with him (and my Mom and Grandmother) I and learned more about the Bill.
The following week all the Pages got to have lunch with the Speaker. He told us so much about how he became Speaker and life at Queen’s Park. (He has an apartment upstairs).
I had so much fun meeting the different Members. We got to talk with Premier Kathleen Wynne, Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. There were also lunches with the Clerk (first female Head Clerk) and the Lieutenant Governor.
Each Friday, we enjoyed field trips in Toronto, to places including the Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, St. Lawrence Market, Hockey Hall of Fame. I liked to surf while standing on the train, but also learned how easy it might be to get lost on the subway.
The days were long: we had to get their before 8 a.m. and often didn’t leave until after 6 p.m. Most of the time I was sitting on the Speaker’s Dais, waiting for an MPP to ask for a glass of water or to have a note delivered. We had to stand every time the Speaker stood, then sit when he sat. Sometimes deliveries were to another Member, or the Clerk or Speaker – but sometimes they were in a different building.
It was hard being non-partisan. We weren’t allowed to react to what Members were saying – so if everyone else was laughing or clapping – we had to sit there with a “poker face.” We had some time for the homework our teachers sent with us, but we also received lessons in Legislative Process such as how a bill becomes a law.
If any student is thinking of applying, they should do it. I admit, it was harder than I thought it would be. I was not accepted the first time, but I tried again and got in. You need an A average and need to write an essay. It is open to students in grades 7 and 8.
I made some amazing friends. Kids came from far away: Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Manitoulin Island, Windsor and more. (Only one came from Toronto.) Most of us had to find friends and family to stay with and to help us get to Queen’s Park each day.
I will always remember all the fun we had.