The carbon tax, homelessness, and opioids.
These were some of the things on students’ minds as they asked Federal New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh questions at Belmont Secondary School on Tuesday.
About 250 students gathered with Singh and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor.
Singh opened his question and answer session with candid comments about some of the hardships he faced growing up such as family illnesses, tuition expenses and having to find ways to support his family.
“I’m not here today in front of you because I earned it on my own,” Singh said. “I’m only here today because people lifted me up.”
He took questions about the environment, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, affordable housing, carbon tax, women in politics, and equal rights, to name a few.
The students came from a mixture of English and social studies classes and were engaged while he answered their questions.
Singh said he thought it was an honour to be able to speak with youths and hear their questions and concerns. He said he hopes they will think more about the future of Canada and feel optimistic about the fact that things can change.
“I was blown away by the fact that young people are concerned about housing as well,” Singh said. “The fact that young people are worried about it is pretty troubling … [it] shows you how serious the issue is.”
Keagan Tait is a grade 11 student who helped introduce Singh and MacGregor on Tuesday. He said it was a privilege to be able to ask a party leader questions.
“I think it’s very important for students our age and even younger to learn and engage in political discussion and learn about politics because we are the future of our country,” Tait said.
Another grade 11 student who helped introduce the leaders — Navya Pottumutu — said she looked to Singh as an inspiration.
Pottumutu became a Canadian citizen about two weeks ago and she said Singh was a good example of someone who gives back to the country through his work as a politician and previous work as a lawyer.
“He’s definitely shown me that no matter if you’re Canadian or you’re an immigrant that has turned into a Canadian, you can definitely do a lot more than what an average student might think,” Pottumutu said. “My goal is to serve back to the country for everything it’s given me and my family.”
Belmont Secondary School principal Jim Lamond said hosting political leaders is a good way to give young people an opportunity to ask questions.
“At the end of the day — regardless of politics — they’re local, provincial, federal, global leaders,” Lamond said. “Why not give an opportunity for some of our youth to ask them questions that will hopefully spawn motivation, inspiration and multiple perspectives.”