Youth gets legislative crash-course

Kieran Lawlor has had lunch with Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns. He’s chatted with Tabuns’ fellow New Democrat, MPP Peter Kormos. But he’s matter-of-fact about both encounters.

“I kind of just treat it like talking to any other adult, because when you think of it, that’s all they really are,” he said. “They’re just regular adults.”

It’s a mature attitude, considering that Kieran, 13, is a Grade 8 student at Holy Name Catholic School on Donlands Avenue in East York. But it’s understandable, considering that Kieran served three weeks in October as a legislative page. The education-based program, available to students across Ontario, enables those with an 80 per cent or higher average to take part in the legislative process at Queen’s Park.

After learning about the opportunity from a family friend, Kieran wrote an essay on why he thought he’d make a great legislative page.
Jim Lawlor, Kieran’s father, recalled the moment in August when he and his wife, Eileen, received the good news.

“We were thrilled,” Lawlor said. “You take a chance at it, throw it out there and see what happens, and it was all good news that came back.
“It’s funny because I’d never heard much about the program before… but it’s fantastic.”

Kieran’s friends and classmates were also impressed with the news, but for a different reason than his family.

“They pretty much think that I’m a servant in the legislature who gets paid and gets to miss school,” he laughed.

But it wasn’t all fun and games in and around the chambers of the provincial parliament — and that suited Kieran just fine.

“Question period would probably be my favourite part, because during the orders of the day, it’s just debating and the bills, so not much happens,” he said. “With question period, you’re up and moving and bringing notes from the aides to the MPPs and you’re getting them water. You are going non-stop.”

Kieran even welcomed the opportunity to take on the role of page captain one afternoon.

“Page captains get to be in the Speaker’s position, which is when the sergeant-at-arms brings the mace from the Speaker’s office,” he said. “We (also) have to look out to see what the other pages are doing right and what they are doing wrong and then we have to give a report the next day about what we saw.”

Overall, the experience allowed Kieran to indulge in his passion for current affairs and government issues.

“I learned how everything works,” he said. “How the bills get passed up from introduction to when it becomes law (and) what the opposition does to try to stop (it).”

Although Kieran said that the three weeks he spent as legislative page went by quickly, the fact that he was given a rare opportunity was not lost on him.

“It’s sad to leave,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”