Alex Smith, a Grade 11 political enthusiast, reflected on his experience at Mr. Speaker’s MLA for a Day last year. He is watching his inbox these days, hopeful to attend again this year.
“I’d recommend it to anyone, even those who are vaguely interested in politics,” said the 17-year-old, Lindsay Thurber student.
The MLA for a Day program gives Alberta high school students the opportunity to learn about the role of an MLA and get firsthand experience making decisions on provincial issues.
One of the aspects Smith appreciated most about the experience was the opportunity to meet MLAs and talk with them like real people, not just political figures.
“I got the chance to meet my representative MLA Barb Miller, who is a lovely human being,” Smith said.
Students from across the province spend three days in Edmonton, in and around the Alberta Legislature.
They tour the grounds and building, visit the office of their MLA, attend a formal dinner hosted by the Speaker and participate in a variety of other activities, including having a debate in the Assembly Chamber itself.
Smith said he gained respect for politicians through the experience and a better appreciation for the work they do.
At the same time, he said he found seeing the political system in action often frustrating—finding it sometimes tedious, inefficient and ineffective.
“It’s mostly just people ignoring each other and there was very little that actually happened—I’m going to have to pay taxes next year and I don’t want my taxes just going to nothing,” Smith said.
Despite this, he still plans to pursue a career in politics.
The MLA for a Day program is offered at no cost to participants, including travel and accommodation expenses.
Applications for the program were due March 23rd and students are being notified on March 28th whether they have been accepted to attend.