Young politicians in Alberta say despite Jason Kenney’s recent dig at youthful candidates, they remain undeterred.
Earlier this month, a video surfaced where Kenney, the leader of the United Conservative Party, called out an NDP opponent for his age at a fundraising event.
“Their star candidate to take on [UCP candidate] Peter Guthrie is a 19-year-old,” Kenney said in the clip while the audience laughed. He added, “Now don't take it for granted because they elected a lot of them last time.”
Kenney was wrong about the candidate’s age. Steve Durrell is 29 and says Kenney’s personal dig at him fueled his conviction that more young people are needed in politics.
“It's the fact that he thought that a person's age or that a young person is getting involved in politics is worthy of a punishment of a cheap laugh,” Durrell said.
“I would hope that leaders in our province would want to see that diversity that reflects what is in Alberta.”
Kenney has not responded to the Calgary Journal’s request for comment on the recent remarks made.
At 22, Rachel Timmermans, Kenney’s only competitor in the Calgary Lougheed riding, saw the video when it surfaced on Twitter.
“I kind of thought we were past that in our society. I think that especially in the last few years we've seen that young people aren't just young, stupid, meant to sit around and wait until they're old enough to make decisions,” Timmermans said.
As the youngest member of the Alberta Party, Timmermans said she was disappointed with the commentary, adding that she has never faced ageism or sexism in her political pursuits.
“Part of why I originally started running and what I really wanted to show was that anybody could do this,” Timmermans said.
But breaking into the industry can be especially difficult for young politicians, said political science professor Lori Williams.
“Well, there’s no question anywhere — they aren’t taken seriously. The assumption is because they don’t have political experience, they aren’t qualified to function in certain areas,” Williams said.
Rachel Timmermans wants to take the focus away from age, and focus on giving “people something to vote for, not vote against.” Produced by Rayane Sabbagh.
The Mount Royal University professor added that many young people don’t participate in politics of any kind such as voting or coming out to campaign events because they don’t see themselves represented.
“If you don’t see yourself either represented in the system or taken seriously by the system then it’s understandable that they tend to detach,” she added.
Williams interpreted Kenney’s comment as dismissive of young people and their ideas, which has the potential to push them away from making a difference through politics.
“It tends to give the impression that young people don’t have a voice that is important to be heard or don’t have experience that’s important to be considered.”
Despite that, Timmermans appears confident.
She said she is excited to be door-knocking even in the -30 C weather and is focusing on the things she can control.
She said she thinks she has a shot against Kenney, and said if she wins, the first thing she would do is, “Probably call my mom.”
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