When I was 19 and off university for the summer, I ended up spending most of my working time behind a bar. Though it wasn’t a job of rigorous expectations, I undoubtedly lucked out by being in the right place at the right time. One of the recipients of my hurried CV was a little Toronto restaurant that happened to be losing its only front-of-house employee the same day I dropped off my resume. I fumbled my way through an interview that afternoon: “Hmm…” the owner said, scanning my hospitality-weak resume. “I really would like someone with a bit more experience…” But she gave me the job anyway (probably out of sheer desperation) and that summer I earned every penny of my server’s minimum wage.
Only now do I realize that my composure during the interview was totally to my own detriment. When the owner was mulling over her desire to have someone with more experience, I really should have shouted “Ageist!” and stormed off angrily, possibly flailing.
After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do now that pundits are expressing skepticism about our brand new under-30 MPs? The youngest is 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a Université de Sherbrooke political science student who became Canada’s youngest ever MP last week after winning his Sherbrooke riding. And of course, along with six or so other 20-somethings, there’s Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who we all now know as the non-French-speaking assistant pub manager who won over her Francophone riding despite vacationing is Las Vegas during the campaign.
Many of these new MPs were clearly just lending their names to the NDP in ridings that were almost certain to vote Bloc. So, naturally, people are questioning their ability to perform well in their new unexpected, perhaps unwanted positions. And, also naturally, reactionaries have labeled that questioning with that nasty A-word. Then there are those, perhaps more rational than the ageist alarmists, genuinely asking why these young MPs are facing more scrutiny than rookie MPs with experience in other fields.
To me, the reason seems obvious. A rookie MP coming from a business background brings with her knowledge about corporate affairs and economics. A farmer new to politics brings with him agricultural insight and perspectives on climate change. Yes, they speak for different communities, but also bring valuable, diverse experiences to the House of Commons. Unfortunately, a 19-year-old just doesn’t have that wealth of life experience to draw on.
That’s not to say, however, that a young MP can’t serve his or her constituents well. Indeed, I hope that is the case. But in the meantime, we’re justified in keeping a raised eyebrow, at least until these young MPs fill up their resumes.