Rally to roundtable: NDP bridges with youth

SDSG NDP candidate Patrick Burger, background right, held a roundtable discussion with a younger crowd during a #Rally4Change event at The Social on Sydney Street in Cornwall, Ont. Burger felt the event gave him a better opportunity to connect with local youth. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SDSG – You could say it’s the quality, not the quantity.

With a lower than expected turnout, a rally for the SDSG New Democrats in Cornwall gave the local candidate a chance to connect on a more intimate level with a younger electorate.

Patrick Burger ended up holding a roundtable, answering questions from a crowd, many of whom were younger than Cornwall’s average age of 45.

“It was very exciting to have so many young people around the table. Since I’m a teacher (at John Abbott College), it was neat to engage with them, but they’re older young people and it’s good to hear their concerns directly,” Burger told Cornwall Newswatch.

Burger says many of them wanted to know how the party would help them stay in the area and not leave to find work.

“Our focus on clean-tech and green-tech which is a massively growing sector, they think by 2020 it will be worth $3 trillion worldwide. That’s an option here. We have the intelligent, young people and there’s many applications for the type of knowledge that they have,” Burger said.

Not having the money the other parties do, Burger says having these discussions will cause “ripples” of discussion and the success locally will be won through pushing the message by “word of mouth.”

“The young people here they have friends. They talk to each other and hopefully that will revitalize their interest in the political process,” the NDP candidate said.

Burger is hoping his honesty and not being a career politician will help cut through any political cynicism among local youth.

The candidate says he’s met a number of people in rural SDSG – a traditionally Conservative stronghold – that are in a “quandary for the first time” when choosing how to vote on Oct. 19.

But Burger says the one wedge issue is the Islamic State (ISIS). “It would be the Conservatives’ worst nightmare with ISIS was conquered tomorrow. That seems to be the one wedge issue that they can frighten people with and I think our position on that has been misunderstood.”

Burger says there is no unity among the ISIS opponents and Canada should be using its “traditional diplomatic role” to talk to all the parties and get some unity. “Get the unity and make it happen and, at that point, Canada has always put its contingent in when the fighting was necessary. At this point, the fighting seems useless.”

Burger said it was also fun to talk to the people at the roundtable Friday night about his life and travelling to Africa. “In the Western world, if you never leave, you get the impression that this is what life is like for everybody and that’s just not the case…it gives you a certain type of perspective. I think it’s good for the world.”

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