QUEEN’S PARK — One-on-one meetings with Premier Doug Ford and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Ted Arnott as well as an opportunity to hear inspirational messages directly from female MPPs and cabinet ministers, who told them that the sky is truly the limit for women in politics.
Those were the highlights as Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark welcomed seven local participants in the Girls’ Government program to Queen’s Park on Monday, June 3. The program is a partnership between Girls Inc. of Upper Canada and MPP Clark.
This is the fourth year for the program and participants were: Gabby Black, Chiara Bondi, Rylee Dennis, Isabella Rochon, Lauren Heuving, Kristina Brown and Delaney Ringer.
“I’m so grateful to Premier Ford, Speaker Arnott, my cabinet and caucus colleagues along with opposition MPPs for taking time out of their busy schedules to engage in some very thoughtful discussions with this impressive group of girls,” said Clark. “I’ve been a strong proponent of the Girls’ Government program because it gives these young women an opportunity to hear directly from women who have made a real difference in their communities and our province. They can see first-hand that by being active in the political process at every level of government, they can use their voices to help shape public policy and change the world.”
Every year, program participants choose different issues to be the focus of their advocacy in meetings with local elected officials and their visits to Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park.
This year, the group focused on education and gender inequity as well as the roles of girls and women in sports, media, the agriculture industry and access to sexual health information and services.
“For us at Girls Inc., this Girls’ Government program isn’t about telling girls what to think, but rather about inspiring them to think critically, to ask questions and to challenge the status quo. We want to empower these young women to feel confident speaking up and advocating for change,” said Lesley Hubbard, Girls Inc. executive director. “The program is more about learning how government systems work, not about partisan politics. Our elected officials, no matter what party they represent, are the best people to teach these young women about their job and the system in which they work.”
In addition to meetings with Premier Ford and Speaker Arnott at Queen’s Park, the Girls Government group met with Ministers Lisa Thompson, Education; Merrilee Fullerton, Training, Colleges and Universities; Laurie Scott, Labour; Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, Caroline Mulroney, Attorney General; Ernie Hardeman, Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Michael Tibollo, Tourism, Culture and Sport.
They also met with PC MPPs Amy Fee, Goldie Ghamari, Christine Hogarth, Belinda Karahalios, Andrea Khanjin, Natalia Kusendova, Robin Martin, Donna Skelly, Kinga Surma, Nina Tangri and Daisy Wai as well as NDP MPP Bhutila Karpoche and Independent MPP Mitzie Hunter.
During the meetings, the girls spoke about the need for more women’s voices in politics in order for our political systems to be more representative of today’s society. They were also encouraged to take risks and not to be afraid of accepting opportunities to get involved.
Girls’ Government is an MPP-led program designed to open doors for girls interested in public office and policy initiatives.
The program also gives participants a chance to meet with local female role models. This year’s guests included former Brockville city councillor and federal Liberal candidate Mary Jean McFall, North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford and Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.
Clark also extended his appreciation to Hubbard and her staff at Girls Inc. of Upper Canada – program manager Liz Harder and program facilitator Kim Fenn – for being such strong champions of the program and making it a rewarding experience for participants.
“Girls Inc. does outstanding work in our community to empower girls and young women and I’m proud to continue working with them on this initiative,” said Clark.