Shane Mackenzie is the OYL United candidate for Policy Director. His proficiency at online communications and social media brought him to my attention shortly after the last federal election. Shane is incredibly hard-working, funny and sincere. He was kind enough to answer my questions:
1. Why are you a Liberal?
I was attracted to the Liberal Party because from what I’ve seen, history ends up being primarily defined by liberal features through Liberal measures that other parties opposed adamantly and eventually accepted (and now funnily attempt to champion). The Liberal Party has always been ahead of future issues and has done many remarkable things because of it. For me, this helps me not to worship the past evangelically, but rather to have reassurance that this is the party with the capability to replicate such grand scale thinking and apply it. Further, the heroes of our Canadian history have been Liberals for me. I feel that Tory Prime Ministers took us in a direction that is not consistent with the grain of social progress for Canadians. I appreciate what the Liberal Party has built and will build.
2. What is the best lesson you have learned for working on Liberal campaigns that you hope to bring to the OYL?
I learned that you have to have fun with it. At every level–local, provincial, federal and student politics, campaigns that are having fun feel like winning campaigns. Even campaigns hopelessly down in the polls that are having fun get ideas in the back of your head that it could come to fruition on e-day. Elections should be fun. Politics should be fun. The reason that young people need to be involved is to do what Trudeau did back in the early days: invigorating politics with energy by jumping into pools fully clothed before speeches. Young people need to be involved in order to bring fun, energy and liveliness to the stiff-suited men who firmly discuss business in the backrooms whilst lacking the vision of what a passionate citizenry is fuelled on.
3. What method is most effective for turning online activism into real life engagement.
I have found that diehard friends will be kind to you and show up to every event you invite them to if you’ve put in the time with them in person. This is what politics lives off of: friendships, camaraderie and unity. With a good combination of event invites, working the event itself and networking in person, those online networks begin to mean more. I learned a lot working as the Social Media director for Sheila Copps’ campaign for 6 months leading up to the Biennial convention It was a place where we believed that if it didn’t translate to action, don’t do it. If social media is not used as a tool to engage face-to-face and is not capable of getting people engaged enough to vote in an election, support a cause actively or to truly feel the way you feel, then it remains a second-rate tool. It is part of a multilateral approach to engagement that requires you to put in the personal labour rather than just sitting behind a screen typing ideas up and posting them constantly.
4. What policy issue are you passionate about?
I am policy passionate as a whole. Personally, I am particularly passionate about solving poverty. The fact is, no one should be shy to categorically say, “poverty is unacceptable”. Poverty of any person on earth should concern us a whole and we should not, by omission of our actions, allow others to be harmed. I am one of those bleeding hearts who is not afraid to admit that walking by those who are impoverished breaks my heart and omitting to do anything, even within my minimal capabilities, pains me. I convince myself all the time that I’m working towards the goal of being able to help and for it to count on a mass scale. People should always get into this kind of activism for the simple reason of “helping people”. We should use our active engagement through volunteerism to tackle poverty.
I got involved with the policy process by attending numerous issue related events with Liberal critics speaking. For example: Mark Holland on prisons and recidivism, Irwin Cotler on C-10, Scott Brison on the recent budget, Gerard Kennedy on the environment, Justin Trudeau on youth, Stéphane Dion on the clarity act and electoral reform, policy roundtables in several ridings on various topics. These gave me a good introduction to policy, which prepared me to engage in the young Liberal process at last year’s Policy Parliament & Summer Fling. At the eastern region policy parliament, I was intrigued to hear about innovative policies on thorium, electoral reform and interprovincial trade that are important to discuss. The youth brought new debates to the table and clearly had the ability to choose new directions for the party–those innovative enough with which to lobby the provincial and federal party. I consider myself a bit knowledgeable in every area and I’m more interested in what others have to bring to the table in regards to policy. I’m looking for something novel coming from the youth in order for the party to really pay attention to what is brought forward.
5. What was the high light of the bilenial convention for you?
The highlight of convention for me was being placed front row centre by my team, while I thought I was just holding a seat for someone important. I sat in a row with Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Rt. Hon. John Turner, Hon. Bob Rae, Hon. Sheila Copps, Hon. Marlene Catterall and with many other of my heroes. I sat right in the center watching Premier Dalton McGuinty deliver his address, during Hon. Michael Ignatieff’s “Thank you” speech and I winked at all my friends on stage behind Ignatieff trying to make them blush (It worked). I was apparently on TV a lot, but I was so caught up in that moment that nothing else matter but the feeling of being a proud Liberal.