Cowichan’s Q of A students get debate intro from experts

Politics with a capital "P" came to Patrick McCann’s Grade 5 class at Queen of Angels School on Wednesday.

McCann always teaches about all levels of government as part of the social studies curriculum but this year, there was a yearend kick to the lessons: a visit from Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder and North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure. The idea: a question and answer session and then a parliamentary debate with the enthusiastic kids involved.

And boy were they involved.

Crowder led off the event by briefly telling the children about how Parliament is organized in Ottawa, how laws are made and then showed them a picture of the Mace and explained what it is and what it means in the House.

She also told them how the beautiful parliamentary library escaped the great fire of 1916 and how it has now expanded to include 600,000 books and that the 53-bell carillon at the Peace Tower rang out with the Star Trek theme on the 50th anniversary of that famous TV show.

Lefebure explained that local government means things like the pool, parks and playgrounds but it also covers police and fire departments and most roads.

However, there are times, he said, when local problems take on national importance and gave the situation surrounding derelict vessels as an example.

"That’s when I look to Jean, and she’s been fantastic about taking our concerns to Ottawa," he said. "She’s also worked hard on First Nations issues and got an important bill passed."

Then the students asked questions of both politicians. These ranged from changes they’ve made, to their concerns for the future.

Finally, the Great Debate took place.

The class was divided into government and opposition benches and practised pounding their tables in approval before grouping into a caucus to formulate their debate strategy.

Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley, who also visited the session, joined Crowder on the government side, while Lefebure led the opposition bench.

At issue was that burning question: are cats better than dogs.

Lefebure declared early that it was his intention to win the debate and his side did emerge victorious but not before the room heard stirring arguments.

Persuasion included: "cats don’t smell like wet dogs," "if you’re drowning in a pond, a cat won’t be able to rescue you," "cats come pretty much trained," and "cats were kings and queens of Egypt" to "dogs are good guardians" and the final clincher for the dog side: "the litter box, two words."

The winner was declared by a Speaker’s committee, but Routley called for a vote in the House, which only echoed the committee’s finding.

At the end, a delighted and victorious Lefebure encouraged the children to keep up their interest in the democratic process by writing to the any of their politicians with concerns or ideas.