Recent Victoria High School grad Zofka Svec is off to the nation’s capital for a year to work in the House of Commons page program and attend classes at the University of Ottawa. (Don Descoteau/News staff)

Victoria grad turns a new page in her personal history, accepts House of Commons job

Politics fan Zofka Svec will work as a page on Parliament Hill, attend the University of Ottawa

Freshly minted Vic High grad Zofka Svec is off to Ottawa for a year-long adventure as a member of the House of Commons’ page program.

It’s an unusual time to be taking a job in the hub of Canadian politics. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has prorogued parliament until Sept. 23 to reset the government’s economic recovery plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ottawa’s 385 active COVID cases (as of Aug. 26) are much higher than the 15 currently in the entire Island Health region.

“It’ll be interesting to be in the House at such a weird time and have it only be a third full,” said Svec, who’s been interested in politics since about Grade 3. “We are living in a historical time. It’ll be nice to be able to say I was there when such-and-such a bill was passed … Canadians are going through a lot right now.”

As a regular CPAC (Canada’s parliamentary channel) watcher who volunteered as a phone canvasser for a federal election campaign and for Elections Canada last year, and whose recreational reading includes The Oxford Book of Canadian Political Anecdotes, she seems a natural for this kind of work.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay student Ottawa bound as parliamentary page

Svec was encouraged to apply for the page program by her Grade 11 history teacher, for whom she wrote a paper on the Meech Lake Accord. In the meantime she researched this longstanding tradition of parliament to learn more about the role of a page. She discovered that women only began being admitted in the 1980s – the existing program began in 1978 – but now roughly 60 per cent of those hired are female.

After her application moved her into the second round of the process, her language skills in English and French were tested. A personal interview came next, along with providing references from two teachers. Having been in French immersion in elementary school, then taken French courses at middle school at Glenlyon Norfolk and later Vic High, she’s comfortable communicating in both official languages.

The program accepts 40 graduating students each year from high schools across Canada who enrol in first-year university studies in Ottawa. Pages work 15 hours a week in between classes and are responsible for a wide range of tasks on Parliament Hill, from those directly related to the sitting House of Commons in the Chamber, to assisting with state visits and other official events.

“I’m looking forward to being where the action is happening,” Svec said. “Being in Ottawa will seem like such a cool change of pace. It’ll be great to see some historic moments and hear debates around them.”

Among her first duties will be to attend the week-long training program, and to memorize the names and faces of all 338 members of parliament. She joked that her CPAC-watching time has given her a leg up in that department.

Svec is enrolled in studies at the University of Ottawa, where she’ll also be living in residence in her own room – a COVID-related luxury – during her time in the city.

Despite the uncertainties and health safety precautions related to the pandemic, she is excited about her chance to experience federal politics firsthand and work in an iconic, history drenched setting.

“It’s great that we live in a democratic country that gives young people opportunities to learn about their democracy,” she said.

To learn more about the page program, visit bit.ly/3gyNpyY.


 

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