COLUMN: Didn’t we ask youth to get involved?

Wright Turn

I don’t quite get the negative hubbub that’s come as a result of the many young, inexperienced politicians swept into office as part of the NDP’s ‘orange crush’ surge in the recent federal election.

There’s all sorts of criticism about how the neophytes will slow down the pace of Canadian democracy as they try to learn ins and outs of the system, as well as the most basic principles of parliamentary procedure.

Some critics make it seem as if being young and exuberant and inexperienced is somehow a bad thing in Ottawa.

That’s quite the turnaround from prior to the election, when we heard repeatedly how Ottawa needs an injection of, you guessed it, youthful energy.

With a system oft-criticized by our notoriously apathetic electorate for being an ‘old boys club’ that doesn’t connect with younger voters, what could be better than having a wave of youth suddenly populating Parliament Hill?

The involvement of youth, in and of itself, is hardly a bad thing. It is perhaps exactly what is needed in Ottawa, and also seems exactly what many Canadians have been asking for.

Pardon me if it sounds uncharacteristically optimistic and idealistic, but fresh faces and fresh outlooks from bright young minds untainted by years in the political trenches could actually bring about some sadly necessary change in Ottawa.

And having a few of their peers playing a role in the country’s most important decisions might also get a few more young people involved in the electoral process.

Isn’t that what we asked for?

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It’s not just earthquakes and tsunamis.

As the people of Slave Lake, Alta., and several rural Manitoba communities experienced earlier this week, emergencies – and the need for emergency preparation – come in many forms.

On the coast, emergency preparedness is most closely associated with earthquakes, not surprisingly, considering our situation on a major fault line.

But we’re also not immune to wildfires and flooding, situations that hit Slave Lake and towns along the Assiniboine River, respectively.

Intense deluges a few years ago caused flooding along the Nanaimo River, close to the estuary, while a large chunk of residential Duncan was under water at the same time.

We’ve also got plenty of wildland interface (where the forest meets the urbanity) both at the edges of and within our city limits and, for the last few years at least, a firebug (or several) intent on setting woodland property ablaze.

It doesn’t take much, as Slave Lake residents learned this week and Kelowna back in 2003, for a small wildfire to quickly get blown into a full-scale disaster evacuation. And the aftermath, for many, is the utter annihilation of all their worldly possessions.

Most evacuation orders come with adequate warning. People are given several hours, sometimes even a full day to load up what they can and make an orderly exit.

Other times it’s ‘grab what you can in five minutes and get out!’

It’s in those latter instances that having an emergency kit ready is crucial.

And aside from actually getting that organized, the key is to wrap your head around thinking in terms of ‘emergencies’, not just earthquakes.

There’s all kinds of situations that could force people from their homes. Earthquakes, fires and floods are a few. Others include chemical spills, major industrial accidents or explosions, and mud slides.

So if you’re keeping up with the news and thinking of those unfortunate people in those hard-hit communities elsewhere, take a few minutes to get your own situation organized – their situations could easily be replicated here.

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