Movers and shakers
By Brigitte Génier
With the election campaign in full swing, people like Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair project manager James Go (BCom ’14) and uOttawa student Sara Minaeian are making sure youth are engaged with the political process.
The endowed JLP research chair was established to honour the dedication and contribution to Canadian politics of the late respected cabinet minister and former University of Ottawa political science professor. By starting initiatives such as the iVote-jeVote series of panel discussions and debates, it is living up to the legacy of its namesake, supporting the study of political institutions, public finance and democratic governance.
Its focus has attracted smart, motivated and passionate students like Sara Minaeian, a third-year student in the Faculty of Social Sciences’ School of Political Studies. Through her involvement with the International, Political and Policy Studies Students Association, she mobilized a group of like-minded, politically active students to stimulate more discussion on campus. She met with Kevin Page, the current chair holder, and received strong support.
“I had heard about the chair’s initiatives and saw potential to engage a wider audience and community of young Canadians online and in person, creating a brand,” says Minaeian, who heads up communications for iVote-jeVote, a non-partisan forum that offers a platform for voting age youth to engage in the democratic process.
The events that iVote-jeVote holds bring together students, academics, politicians and journalists to discuss important issues such as youth voter turnout and parliamentary dissent in a unique setting.“iVote has a particular feel to it,” says Minaeian. “It is young and fresh. The energy never dies. It is refreshing to be surrounded by a group that continues to have hope. Hope is very powerful.”
But Minaeian’s work comes with some challenges.
”The spontaneity of the political process makes it difficult at times. However, even with little preparation time, the response from students and practitioners is still amazing,” she says.
Minaeian was recently nominated by a fellow student and volunteer for the 2015 Samara Everyday Political Citizen award. The award aims to recognize the diversity of politics and democracy in Canada, and to celebrate positive political role models.
“This nomination was a happy surprise. I am passionate about civic engagement. I believe it is important for us to know what is happening politically and how this affects our daily lives,” she says.
James Go (BCom ’14), operations manager for the JLP chair, says working with the chair makes him proud to be a young uOttawa alumnus.
“The JLP chair engages students and alumni to work together to motivate society to be a part of effective changes. The change which I am referring to is ‘collaborative” change,’” says Go, a business analyst and auditor at the start-up consulting firm A Hundred Answers. “JLP acts as a vehicle which pulls together individuals of different experiences, backgrounds, knowledge sets, skills, opinions and fields to manage projects aimed for action.”
Page, Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer, was selected as JLP research chair in 2013. Since then, engagement and student participation have been front and centre.
“The chair has the privilege of working closely with undergraduate students across the Faculty of Social Sciences. Sara and James have applied their ample marketing skills, social media and business savvy to make iVote-jeVote a recognizable brand here at uOttawa and across the country,” says Page.
The Faculty of Social Sciences has hosted a number of iVote-jeVote political panels in front of its emblematic Living Wall.
In March 2014, its first panel featured Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Conservative MP the Honourable Michael Chong.
In June 2014, a panel on women and politics featured Faculty of Arts alumna Anne McGrath, national director of the New Democratic Party; Faculty of Social Sciences alumna Katie Telford, national campaign co-chair for the Liberal Party; and Nancy Peckford, Equal Voice executive director.
In May 2015, the topic of politics and economics of environmental sustainability was discussed with panellists Megan Leslie, NDP environment critic and deputy leader; the Honourable John McKay, Liberal environment critic; with the Honourable Tom Mulcair, leader of the official NDP opposition, giving the keynote address.
The first iVote-jeVote panel featured (from left) Conservative MP Michael Chong, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.