Chemainus Secondary School Grade 12 students Morgan Bottomley and Hannah Pachet are heading for the Canadian history books, with the introduction of their Private Member’s Bill C-430 Thursday in Ottawa.
The Create Your Canada contest winners were in the House of Commons for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP and Agriculture Critic Alistair MacGregor’s first reading of their bill. It makes an amendment to the Income Tax Act to establish a tax credit for expenses incurred in relation to organic farming.
“It feels very surreal,” said Bottomley. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet and I was just there.”
“That was really cool, it was surreal,” concurred Pachet.
“I was so pleased to provide this excellent learning opportunity for students to become engaged with the legislative branch of the federal government,” explained MacGregor. “This contest encouraged students to think critically about what laws would create a better Canada, and it ultimately allowed Morgan and Hannah to witness their idea being tabled in the House of Commons in the form of my Private Member’s Bill C-430.”
It was a whirlwind trip for the Chemainus students. They arrived Wednesday afternoon Eastern time and were back home by noon Friday Pacific time.
“In those 48 hours, I learned a lot more about politics – a lot to absorb,” conceded Bottomley.
“Essentially, Thursday we went in the morning when they were reading out Private Member’s bills. Alistair’s came first. We just about missed it. We came in just in time as he was reading it.
“He read it in the exact way we were thinking about it when we made it.”
After the presentation, the girls got to see MacGregor’s office and received passes to the question period where the hot topic was the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“It was really interesting to watch,” Bottomley indicated. “The opposition got really heated. They were shouting questions and lots of theatrics.”
The girls also toured the Senate that wasn’t in session and met speaker Geoff Regan. “We got to ask him how he keeps his cool with all the arguing and rude comments during question period,” said Bottomley.
As much as the girls were fascinated by everything pertaining to the political process, they’ll be sticking with their original plans for future careers in the medical field.
“Seeing behind the scenes and what it’s like to be an MP and talking to the assistants and how the schedules are run, it seems like a hurried career,” Bottomley observed.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” offered Pachet. “To be immersed in them that day was really interesting.
“It was just a real good experience.”
The girls’ incentive for the project actually started during their Grade 11 year in teacher Janet Ruest’s Geography class when MacGregor came up with the contest idea.
“She was talking to us a lot and she mentioned we could do something related to Geography since we knew a lot about it at the time,” said Pachet.
The girls’ idea struck a chord with MacGregor, as the NDP has long called for a comprehensive Pan-Canadian Food Strategy to improve access to healthy food for every Canadian and ensure sustainable agricultural communities and resources for generations to come.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the quantity and quality of contest submissions, which made choosing the winning initiative very challenging,” said MacGregor. “It is my sincere hope that by working together, thinking about the issues affecting Canada, and coming up with an idea for legislation, that students stay engaged with the Canadian political process in the years and decades ahead.”
The text of the Private Member’s Bill can be viewed at http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-430/first-reading.