Article by Daryna Kutsyna
Campus politics: going beyond the dining hall gossip
When many people hear the word “politics” outside the context of Parliament Hill or the recent municipal elections, they tend to think of things that have quite a cursory meaning to the word itself: gossip, drama and maybe executive positions in campus clubs. But what happens when you want to get involved and have your voice heard in political proceedings across Canada on federal, provincial, and municipal levels, but don’t quite know where to start or don’t have the time to venture far out of campus?
Fear not, my fellow collegiettes, it is possible and the answer may be simpler than you thought. I have spoken to the presidents of the campus clubs representing the two biggest ideologies in Canada: the University of Toronto Campus Conservatives and the University of Toronto Liberals. I have also taken it upon myself to do some research on the NDP group on campus. Below is a snippet of not only how to get involved with the campus club party that appeals most to your heart, but which events they usually host and whether they have strong female representation. Finally, if you want to focus on supporting women in politics, rather than politics at large, that is also entirely possible at Equal Voice – University of Toronto.
The University of Toronto Campus Conservatives (UTCC)
To get the scoop on UTCC, I met with Alanna Newman: president of UTCC and a 4th year political science specialist at Trinity College. She told me outside of university, she has been able to get active in politics through roles ranging from the President of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Youth Association to interning with Joe Oliver, the Minister of Finance in Ottawa this past summer. She explained to the that the UTCC is affiliated with both the Ontario PC Party and the Conservative party of Canada, and hosts “a variety of events over the course of the year including cabinet ministers, MPs, MMPs and other leaders”. They also provide assistance to students seeking to apply to political internships and many opportunities to canvass or gain political experience off-campus. Alanna also told me about two great events they ran last year, from the first annual Wine and Cheese to the pub night with Minister Peter MacKay.
Finally, I asked Alanna her thoughts on being a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated field and party. She replies enthusiastically: “it’s been great! There are so many great examples of strong, conservative female leadership – Margaret Thatcher, Minister Kellie Leitch, and Minister Lisa Raitt come to mind.” The UTCC boasts a fairly equal gender balance on exec, which is awesome to see for a collegiette wanting to get involved.
The University of Toronto Liberals (UTL)
Next, I trudged along to Stratchan Hall in the heart of my alma mater, Trinity College, to meet Kaleem Hawa: president of the UofT Liberals, a Loran Scholar, and World Economic Forum Global Shaper pursuing a BSc double major at Trinity College. Kaleem has a wide variety of experiences under his belt such as working at the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Center for Strategic and International Studies Think Tank in Washington, D.C. Kaleem sat down with me to tell me that the UofT Liberals are also affiliated with both federal and provincial political parties, currently boasting over a thousand members, including mature students. The club hosts a variety of speaker events, most recently Chrystia Freeland and Bill Graham, and actively tries to get students onto political campaigns to get hands-on experience.
Kaleem also filled me in on an event the UofT Liberals hosted last year with Bill Graham, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chancellor of Trinity College. Students got to “actually engage with him” in a lively and dynamic speaker event, as well as network with one another. He told me about some strong female executives as well, such as the Vice-President of Finance, Erin Singer, and the former president, Michelle Johnston. Getting involved with the UofT Liberals is a click of a button away on their website or on the UofT Liberals Facebook page.
University of Toronto New Democrats
Unfortunately, I was not able to get an interview from Ilona Kabanova, one of the co-chairs of the club (although her presidency speaks volumes about the presence of strong female leadership!). However, from information gathered on the UofT New Democrats Facebook page, the club is fairly active, hosting speaker events on campus and supporting provincial and municipal candidates, as well as socials and pub nights with speakers. Much of the group’s events and information is available through signing up on the Facebook Page (UofT New Democrats).
Equal Voice – University of Toronto (EVUT)
If your political appetite has not been satiated with joining one of the three major parties, or if you are passionate about supporting women’s representation in politics, I have another alternative for you. Equal Voice – UofT, a daughter chapter of the national Equal Voice organization, is a campus club focusing on mentorship, bringing speakers such as Minister Raitt to campus to speak to young women passionate about getting involved in politics, political training and supporting female candidates. As expected, female leadership is strong (all of the execs are women!), with the co-presidents Daryna Kutsyna and Crystal Gao involved in other political and women’s issues such as the “Because I am a Girl” initiative. So, if you are more passionate about forming a strong female network and paving the path for female candidates than you are about politics at large, like the Equal Voice – UofT Facebook page or email [email protected]
So, fellow collegiettes, you know have the knowledge and resources to make a mark on our campus and in politics at large – best of luck!