Last weekend, Calgarians took to 4th street to participate in the 29th annual Lilac Festival, the second largest gathering after the Stampede. The festival incorporates over 500 vendors and is accompanied by a parade, where multiple political parties marched in.
The festival is a great showcase of some of Calgary’s fantastic youth, which is why four of those youth were shocked when they were met with crude comments from the NDP booth.
After marching in the parade as UCP volunteers, Kinga Nolan, Shaun Holtby, Samuel Blackett, and Ashley Stevenson decided to check out other parties’ booths to add to their pin collections, and enjoy some friendly dialogue.
Before they began their walk back up 4th street they met with NDP MLA Craig Coolahan and NDP Youth Leader Noah Nicholls, where they felt well received and were able to connect with both prominent NDP figures.
The NDP Booth
Things unfortunately took a turn when they arrived at the NDP booth to grab some memorabilia. There, they were met with distaste from the NDP volunteers as they went on to ask “If their parents forced them into wearing those ugly shirts” (as they had been wearing their UCP t-shirts). They were then told they didn’t have to be “embarrassed”, that their parents wouldn’t know, and they could be honest.
This came as a shock to the four youth. Ms. Nolan’s initial reaction was “speechless, I wasn’t sure how to even respond to a comment like that … I simply said no. But, the volunteer had the audacity to retaliate and say ‘Well if you’re wearing those shirts because your parents told you to, I’m not judging.’ At that point, I left the booth, frustrated by the intolerance of the NDP.”
The incident left them feeling “singled out, and judged.”
Mr. Holtby went on to say he “had amazing interactions with other parties.” They had received only kind words from Liberal MP Kent Hehr and he told them he was happy to see youth involved in politics no matter their political ideology. They were also given warm greetings from the Green party booth and the Alberta Party booth as they were able to find common ground and engage in meaningful dialogue.
“Respect was an item that came up at many of the booths – how parties and individuals are welcome to have a conversation about different ideologies, but in no way should it be disrespectful.” Said Ms. Nolan.
It may be surprising to some that the most obscene comments came from the NDP as they like to pride themselves as the more “tolerant” party and tend to cling to the moral high ground in most situations. Ms. Nolan continued, “If the NDP want to bring new members to their party, they should begin with treating everyone with a bit of respect.”
This incident unfortunately tattered the peaceful dialogue that the four had had before they arrived at the NDP booth. It is not only disappointing to see comments such as these made, but it’s degrading to youth involvement in politics, no matter which party they may belong to.
Youth all too often are scared away from politics due to bullying and intimidation. Mr. Blackett knows this all to well and went on to say, “I’ve seen close friends of mine and other youth bullied in politics and it’s sad that people can be so intimidated by the presence of youth that they have to demean their standing. We should be embracing our youth and not thwarting their aspirations by partaking in cruel attacks, no matter their political alignment.”
The Importance of Civility
Alberta is less than a year away from a provincial election, and these youth are hoping that we can maintain a respectful dialogue between members of each party, instead of attacking those they don’t agree with.
“There is absolutely no need for that type of disrespect. I was disappointed that politics has become so polarizing in Alberta, that volunteers from another party feel the need to attack volunteers from another.” said Kinga Nolan.
Political discussion is already intimidating enough as it is for many, especially young people who might not feel as aware of different issues and arguments.
As Albertans, we should be enthused to see youth getting involved even if they don’t match with our own party, instead of degrading and attacking youth because of their political affiliation. Obviously, it’s time we return to respectful dialogue instead of attacking the future of Alberta.