Intimidation not an issue for Courtenay’s young councillors

Newcomers to city council represent an age shift in politics

  • Dec. 1, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The Next Generation of Political Leaders: Following the results of the recent municipal election, reporter Erin Haluschak examines the shift of youth in local politics and the perspectives, challenges and ideas they will bring to their respective council tables. This is the second part of this feature series which began Nov. 25 with a look at Comox Valley young elected officials and the challenges and outlooks they have within the next four years.

 

 

Erin Haluschak

Record Staff

When Rebecca Lennox first thought about running for municipal politics she knew as one of the youngest candidates, her age could be either a detriment or a positive factor in her campaign.

She was ready and willing to take that risk.

“It’s all about perspective,” said the first-time Courtenay councillor, who, along with David Frisch and Bob Wells, are some of the youngest members of the recently-elected Courtenay council.

“We are young, but we represent a growing demographic.”

Along with the trio in Courtenay who were all elected under age 40, Cumberland also faced a youth shift during the recent municipal election, with councillors Sean Sullivan and Jesse Ketler elected to represent the village.

It’s a shift which Lennox, 31, was hoping for, and while aware of some of the perceptions which come with a young elected official (“definitely experience comes with age”), she sought mentorship through past councillors and the Young Elected Officials Network.

Lennox attended a one-day workshop for any youth interested in entering the fall municipal election, and while there, noticed a large gap in the lack of youth representation in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River.

“It was a bit of an eye-opener,” she explained. “The population of Courtenay is growing and has a changing demographic. In the past, I didn’t feel like participating (in politics) would be achievable …. (but the workshop) takes away the fear and mystery in politics.”

She said while some people may feel a young councillor may not properly represent the needs of all citizens, it’s just not true.

“All of us have concerns for all citizens; our parents are seniors, and our generation is concerned for that demographic. Our peers are facing big issues such as affordable housing.”

While she would like to think there aren’t any age-related challenges she and her peers will face, she added during the election campaign, she was faced with a reoccurring question: would she cry if a vote didn’t go her way?

“I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a young female, but I got asked that six times,” she added.

Although his first foray into politics was at age 19 in Salmon Arm running for council, first time councillor Bob Wells, 41, acknowledged there is a lot of value in youth involved in politics.

“It’s useful to have the energy and passion about issues and not be told how things should be done,” he explained, but also doesn’t believe age will be an issue at the council table.

He did note, however, there is a perception that young politicians have to prove themselves.

“There is the idea that a person might not have the appropriate experience,” he said, and added his attitude towards life when faced with a challenge — “I don’t know if I can do that yet” — will translate to council.

“I don’t have that inhibition — my decisions will be based on fact, not based on fear.”

For David Frisch, he believes the shift in younger elected officials at the council table can bring a fresh perspective to politics.

“We may have a slightly different viewpoint, maybe we see things longer term, but we see things differently,” he said.

He sees topics such as the environment, climate change and social issues are subjects which affect youth more directly, but doesn’t see age being a challenge.

While he explained anyone willing to learn can succeed, Frisch, 36, added during campaigning the issue of his family values and responsibility was questioned.

“A lot of people asked about the balance — if my family was prepared to accept seeing me less, and I can’t say that’s not partially true,” he said.

“If I was a single guy in my 20s, I might not have gotten those questions.”

Frisch said while he is confident he won’t face any age-related bullying at council or political conferences, he does see many advantages to youth at council.

He said young elected officials can bring an open-style of politics to the council table, and they’re not as entrenched or connected to the old economic model.

“We can look outside those set of rules; there’s new perspectives. (Youth) break down the left-right political spectrum,” said Frisch.

“We find those (political) perspectives are quickly not applying and are polarizing people.”

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bench designed and created by Comox woodworker Brian Mayenburg. Photo submitted
Building for a cause to better the community

Comox woodworker raising funds for Comox Valley Food Bank

Greg Baute (inset), senior director of breeding and genetics at Aurora Cannabis, will be the guest speaker at the next Comox Valley Horticultural Society (CVHS) meeting. Photo supplied
Cannabis breeding discussed at next Comox Valley Horticultural Society meeting

Greg Baute, senior director of breeding and genetics at Aurora Cannabis, will… Continue reading

The next speaker in NIC’s online 2021 Artist Talk series is Scott Amos, one half of the group Monkey C Interactive, which has drawn attention for transforming old technologies into interactive works of art, such as Registroid (supplied photo)
Next North Island College Artist Talk speaker breathes new life into old technology

Interactive installation artist Scott Amos will be the next speaker at North… Continue reading

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

Demonstrators gathered Friday, March 5 at the Courtenay Court House, demanding protection of old-growth forests. Scott Stanfield photo
Citizens march in Courtenay in name of old-growth rainforests

The Comox Valley is one of the B.C. communities engaged in mobilization… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Demonstrators gathered Friday, March 5 at the Courtenay Court House, demanding protection of old-growth forests. Scott Stanfield photo
Citizens march in Courtenay in name of old-growth rainforests

The Comox Valley is one of the B.C. communities engaged in mobilization… Continue reading

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Most Read