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Vancouver Province, Sunday, June 5, 2005

When politicians play with the truth, it's no wonder young people turn off

by Amanda MacGregor

As a youth, I was filled with anticipation and excitement at my first chance to be part of a major political process.

It was in 2003, at the Progressive Conservative leadership convention in Toronto, which I attended as a Vancouver Quadra youth delegate.

On the last vote, Peter MacKay called on the supporters of David Orchard (the third-place leadership candidate) to throw their support behind him, after signing an ambiguous agreement with Orchard.

I was unsure about MacKay's motives and I knew that I could make a decision only when I knew where the party was going and who was the right leader to take it there.

In the final few minutes before the vote, I spotted MacKay and walked over to him. His campaign manager brushed me aside, telling me that he did not have time.

But MacKay looked me in the eye and paused: "What would you like to know?"

Elated, I replied: "Tell me in your own words what was in the agreement you signed?"

MacKay began to digress and move away, only to have me interrupt: "Could you outline for me the three main points?"

I sensed as crowd beginning to gather around us as MacKay finally began to say, unequivocally, that he would not be merging the Conservative party with the Alliance.

I put out my hand, thanked him and told him he had my vote.

Not two months later, MacKay in one swift move, broke his agreement and agreed to a merger with the Alliance, effectively handing the leadership of the merged party to Stephen Harper.

This was the man who had told me to my face that he would not be amalgamating the two parties, and who, for a moment, had convinced me that my vote really counted.

That was the day I lost faith, not only in MacKay as a leader, but in my hopes that politicians can recognize that it's not about them, it's about us, and why won't they listen?

Perhaps I can credit MacKay for teaching me that the struggle to make Canada a better country is a struggle to make politics more honest.

Small departures from electoral promises can be overlooked. Major departures and dishonesties seriously tear apart the glue that holds this country together.

My encounter with MacKay brought this realization sharply into focus.

Has anything that's happened in the past two weeks in Ottawa changed my mind?

What do you think? Why is voter apathy growing, particularly among young people?

Why are party attachments faltering, and personal values compromised by power politics?

I believe it is because of experiences such as mine, when an impressionable youth meets a man beginning his climb to political power and is treated with such blatant dishonesty.

Amanda MacGregor, a fourth-year political science student at UBC, can be reached at

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