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Students dismayed by MPP’s misinformed comments

Student organizers of the Ontario Model Parliament (OMP) were disappointed by recent erroneous comments made by MPP Cheri DiNovo, calling for an end to a 30-year tradition of providing UCC students with access to the legislative chamber at Queen’s Park.

In an interview with the Canadian Press today, DiNovo said she was “shocked to learn that Upper Canada College had private use of the Ontario legislature for two days over the Easter Break.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have access to the legislature over the last few decades, but it’s part of a large program that involves more than two dozen public and private schools from all over Ontario,” says Grade 11 student James Coady. “I find it pretty irresponsible and disappointing for a public figure to make such an erroneous comment.”

Since its inception in 1986, the student-run OMP program has been open to students from across the province. This year, the program attracted about 200 high school students, the majority of which are from public schools. A total of 18 boys from UCC helped organize and were involved in the program, which aims at educating young adults about provincial parliament and giving first-hand experience of the inner workings of the Ontario Legislature.

Students in grades 8 to 12 from 25 schools took part in OMP, including Westview Centennial, Leaside High School, Senator O’Connor College School, Central Technical School, Harbord Collegiate, CW Jeffrey’s, Westview Centennial Secondary, The Elms School, The York School, Vaughn Road Academy, Monarch Park, Appelby College, Iroquois Ridge and All Saints Catholic High School.

Students pay a $70 registration fee to participate in the not-for-profit program. The cost is put towards a secondary site for junior students participating in debate at the University of Toronto’s Hart House. Upper Canada College provides scholarships for students from any school who are unable to afford the fee. This year, UCC, through the Horizons program, provided financial assistance to 30 students to participate in the program.

The OMP has been attracting prominent political guests and speakers, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, former Ontario premiers Bob Rae and Bill Davis, Mayor John Tory, former Ontario Lieutenant Governors David Onley and James Bartleman, long-time NDP politician Rosario Marchese and Chief Electoral officer Greg Essensa.

“I too was dismayed by MPP DiNovo’s misinformed comments – mainly on behalf of all the students who work so hard to pull this together each year,” says Matt Griem the UCC faculty adviser of the OMP.  “They’re the real reason the program has steadily grown to become one of the leading model parliament simulations in North America.

“The irony is that we recently decided to revamp the program and we will no longer offer it at Queen’s Park. It has grown too much and it has become difficult and restrictive to organize it there,” Griem adds.

Student Coady invites DiNovo to return to UCC (she spoke at the 2010 World Affairs Conference) to learn more about the program and Upper Canada College, which she described as “elitist.”

“Elite and hard-working doesn’t mean elitist,” says Coady. “With all due respect, the MPP doesn’t know me, my friends or what we’re about or what we care about. It’s unfair of her to paint us with an old brush that doesn’t represent who we are as a school. In one story, her comments have undermined what I was pretty proud of helping to organize and participate in. I guess I learned a lot about politics today. ”