Liam Donnelly knows the names, faces, portfolios and ridings of all 107 Ontario MPPs. He’s not a high-powered political figure or a lifelong bureaucrat. Donnelly is 13 and served as a Parliamentary Page.
“When I first found out I was going crazy I was so excited,” Donnelly said. “It was only afterwards that I realized I was a Page in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and that was a pretty cool thing.”
He served a three week term in March this year. He thought it was too short. It was difficult for him to even imagine what a shorter term would have been like.
“I would have felt like I’d done all this work and memorized all these names for nothing,” Donnelly said. “I know that each day just got better and better as I learned more. I would be so disappointed if I were them.”
The ‘them’ Donnelly is referring to is the most recent batch of Pages that faced exactly what Donnelly had feared. They had only served for a single day when Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the provincial parliament.
Erin Tedford, coordinator of the Legislative Page Program, explained what happens to those pages now.
“When the house is not in session their job doesn’t exist anymore because their job is to serve the legislature and to work in the chamber,” Tedford said. “So their term would be shortened and then they would go back to their school.”
Not only is their official term of duty over, but according to Tedford they won’t be eligible to participate in the Page Program in the future either.
For NDP opposition MPP Michael Prue, Beaches-East York, the fact that a whole new cadre of young Pages being unceremoniously dumped, just as they got started, underscores the true costs of prorogation.
“I think what the Premier did was wrong and it has impacts,” Prue said. “I felt really sad for this wonderful group of young people that came from all over Ontario, who were excited as hell, and only got to spend one day.”
While their stay may have been shortened, Tedford points to one small upside, that in witnessing the prorogation, those Pages have become a part of history, making for a memorable experience in its own right.