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Conservative, Liberal, NDP representatives speak on student involvement in politics

The transition from university into politics was the topic of an event featuring members of the Conservative Party, Liberal Party, and New Democratic Party (NDP) on March 11.

Held at Thomson House, the event was hosted by students of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) Fellowship Program. The multi-partisan event brought together three McGill alumni—Richard Yufe from the Conservative Party, Rachel Bendayan from the Liberal Party, and Matthew Dubé from the NDP.

Participants spoke about how their experiences as students at McGill helped them enter the world of politics. Bendayan, the national legal advisor for the Liberal Party, suggested that students try to bring their particular strengths to their participation in politics.

“Hone your skills in a particular area,” she said. “When you offer your skills and time, [you are] doing it from a place of power [and] offering something concrete that distinguishes you from the rest.”

Dubé, who completed his bachelor degree at McGill and was formerly co-president of NDP McGill, encouraged students to take the opportunities available to them at university.

“The doors are all there; it’s a matter of opening them,” Dubé said. “Most of all, I want  [the youth] to realize they can get involved in their communities.”

Yufe, who also received a bachelor degree from McGill, praised the role played by CJPAC in providing opportunities for students to become actively involved in politics.

The party members also discussed the hardships faced by women in politics. Bendayan spoke on both issues women face and her positive experience in her work with the Liberal Party.

“There are statistics that show you need to ask a woman twice as many times as you need to ask a man in terms of encouraging somebody to run [for office],” she said. “So far, it’s been comforting to know that I have [an] incredible amount of support from male leaders in the Party.”

Bendayan emphasized the importance of women becoming involved.

“If you get involved, if I get involved, if the women in this room get involved, that’s how we are going to make it different,” Bendayan said. “That’s how we’re going to be able to make women in politics something that won’t ever be discussed by our daughters, because it will be a natural thing.”

Dubé pointed to the challenges faced by his female colleagues and the parties’ united efforts to create an inclusive working space.

“There is a serious institutional problem [….] As recently as 10 years ago there was only a men’s bathroom [in the House of Commons],” he said. “We’ve made great progress across all party lines; everybody is on board with fixing these issues. ”

Students attending the event noted the diverse backgrounds of the individual speakers.

“It was interesting how they all got involved in politics—some had political science backgrounds, some didn’t,” Mughan Bottomley, U0 Arts, said.

Nicolas Levy, U1 Engineering, said he appreciated the multi-partisan atmosphere of the event.

“It was great to hear from members who clearly had different agendas than one another, yet agreed on so many things relating to youth in politics,” Levy said.

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