Youth Parliament of Manitoba (YPM) has been running consecutively as a youth-run and youth-based organization since 1922. Originally directed solely at Protestant teen-aged boys, it has grown phenomenally into a non-denominational program for youth aged 16-20. It is through the work of YPM that participants can gain a greater knowledge of the Canadian democratic process through mock-parliamentary sessions, and also gain valuable public speaking skills through debating prominent societal issues important to youth.
Winter Session in particular, hosted each year from December 26 - 30 at the Manitoba Legislature, is the main event put together by YPM’s volunteer staff; the cabinet and elected executive. It is during these five days that the backbenchers get a chance to engage in debate and also to propose and develop amendments to the bills which have been prepared by the cabinet prior to session. The backbenchers play the most vital role in YPM as without them the organization could not stand. Whether a backbencher is a new or returning member, they are always encouraged to join in the debate right alongside the cabinet members. The new backbenchers will also be asked to give a brief speech on a subject of their choice as a way of not only developing their public-speaking skills but also to allow them to open up to their older contemporaries and relieve some of those “first-session jitters”.
Along with these mock-parliamentary sessions, YPM also hosts political luncheons (sponsored and hosted by the provincial political parties) in which dignitaries from each will stop into the Manitoba Legislature to share stories pertaining to their experiences, and also answer any questions YPM members might have. This has always been a highlight in YPM’s history, as it provides members with the opportunity to voice any concerns to their government, and also provides a rare opportunity to meet the people who represent us in politics.
But not all Winter Session events take place at the Manitoba Legislature. Kelvin High School has allowed YPM to utilize their facilities over the duration of the Winter Session week for many years now. It is at the high school that participants get the chance to mingle and get the most out of their YPM experience. In addition to debating in the Chamber, events include a banquet, ice-breaker activities and YPM Takeover Elections. But primarily, the school is where the members can just unwind after an exciting day of debate, and where people can really get to know each other outside of the House.
However, it is before Winter Session occurs that most of YPM’s work and dedication can be seen. Tasks for YPM are divided up between the cabinet members and the executive volunteer staff. Cabinet’s responsibilities range from gathering necessary materials for session (pens, paper, etc.), to organizing news releases, to writing bills. The tasks divided between all twenty members of Cabinet are numerous, and are vital to YPM’s success.
The executive members are not only given specific roles as dignitaries during session, but also play a vital role in the organization as well. Elected members will serve on the Board of Directors for the corporation as Chairperson (Premier), Vice-Chairperson (Deputy-Premier), Director of Finance (Deputy Speaker), Director of Procedures (House Leader), and the Past Chairperson (Speaker). Executive members of YPM are all voted onto the board by the members of session (both backbenchers and cabinet).
The inaugural Spring Session was held in 2007. Held at Brandon University, the goal of the Spring Session has been to reach out to youth in rural areas of the province, and provide a more accessible version of YPM to some who live too far from Winnipeg. The cabinet here will perform the same tasks as Winter Session, but on a smaller scale.
It is however, not only the cabinet that can be accredited for all of YPM’s success, but also many alumni members. Although members are forced to "age out" after they turn twenty, and the members on the Board of Directors may only serve until the age of twenty-five, they are never fully disconnected from the organization. Alumni members will be called upon in later sessions to act as either Lieutenant Governors, or as Clerks. The Clerk will usually change from sitting to sitting, whereas the Lieutenant Governor remains constant through all of session. The chosen Lieutenant Governor will be asked to open session, read the Speech from the Throne, and make a brief presentation to the House on the first day of session. Former members may also be appointed to the YPM Senate in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the organization.
The Youth Parliament of Manitoba will also recognize an outstanding Manitoba citizen to act as the organizations Honorary President. The selected candidate will be asked to make a speech to the members during sessions, and also provides guidance and support to the cabinet and executive year-round. Past Honourary Presidents include the late Hon. Reg Alcock, the Hon. and Reverend Bill Blaikie and our current Honorary President, Ms. Patricia Chaychuk, clerk of the Legislative Assembly.
Along with our thanks for their hard work, the Youth Parliament of Manitoba also strives to recognize the achievements of our alumni members. The Alumni Achievement Award has been awarded to such distinguished characters as Howard Pawley, Darren Praznik, Bill Blaikie, Lloyd Axworthy, Nahlah Ayed and Bill Norrie; who were all members of YPM prior to their now successful careers. The purpose of this award is to recognize our former members' accomplishments, and also to show how YPM can prepare youth for a successful career in the future. Past winners have all been awarded the Alumni Achievement Award for their tireless efforts towards community service (whether on a professional, local, provincial, national or international level) and are also recognized for their individual accomplishments.
During the 83rd Winter Session, YPM established the “Bear Pit” through a partnership with the Association of Former Members of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly (AFMMLA). Occurring on the third night of Winter Session (December 28th), members from the AFMMLA are invited to the Manitoba Legislature. The purpose of this evening has been to provide the youth of YPM with a better understanding of every aspect of the legislative process. A small number of Former Members sit in the centre of the Chamber comprising the “Bear Pit” and are asked a wide variety of questions on political, economic and social issues. In the process they often share stories or anecdotes pertaining to their experiences as MLAs. Certainly the “Bear Pit” has provided members of YPM with a greater knowledge of politics. In addition, YPM members have a chance to chat with all former MLAs in attendance at a reception held in the rotunda following the “Bear Pit”. This evening has given youth the perfect opportunity to gain a tangible perspective on politics, as well as to meet the people who have enacted legislation in the past. Through the cooperation and assistance of the AFMMLA, the “Bear Pit” has without a doubt proven to be one of YPM’s most beneficial, and also most unique, events for all members at session.
Contact [email protected] for more information about the Youth Parliament of Manitoba.