Roundtable with Member of Parliament Ali Ehsassi — Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science & Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic left no stone unturned when bringing about drastic change in nearly all aspects of our lives. We have all become awfully familiar with zoom calls, became masters of sourdough and banana bread, and started to think about our own health in ways we probably never had before. We, as a society, came together in great numbers, and quickly.
But the pandemic did not affect everyone equally. It laid bare many of the inequalities already existing within our society, in some cases only exacerbating them. Women, low-wage workers, immigrants, youth, Indigenous people, and racialized Canadians all faced greater economic, social, and health-related challenges in comparison to the general population.
Here at the Vancouver Hub of the Global Shapers Community, as we contemplated more about what building back our economy might look like, specifically for the youth population, we had the chance to sit down with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (ISED), Ali Ehsassi. We got this opportunity after writing a letter to the government highlighting the need for youth re-skilling as a recovery tool for COVID-19. You can read that letter here.
To talk all things related to #BuildBackBetter in this roundtable, youth had the opportunity to hear from Parliamentary Secretary Ehsassi about the federal government’s response to the pandemic, and engaged in a meaningful discussion focused on youth-specific initiatives and policy recommendations for the recovery trajectory ahead. In particular, youth leaders across the country focused on three questions to the Parliamentary Secretary:
- Vancouver Shaper Rita Steele asked: What are emerging strategies for skilling and building capacity among young workers as part of the recovery? How can youth position themselves best to help shape the government’s priorities around youth capacity building, skills, and recovery?
- Calgary Shaper Madison Savilow asked: How is the government approaching a ‘green recovery’ in a way that ensures we meet our climate commitments, at the same as we support communities in achieving a Just Transition?
- Toronto Shaper Anjum Sultana asked: In your view, how can ISED champion a more inclusive, representative, and just economy as part of the eventual Government of Canada recovery plan?
“It’s important that we have these discussions as we continue to adjust to the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic. The role of the innovation sector in the post COVID-19 economic recovery as well as youth engagement is very important to what we do and the decisions we will be making.”, noted Ehsassi. “…we will continue to engage a broader set of stakeholders as we are stronger, together.”
Following the questions from Global Shapers across the country, an open discussion ensued exploring topics such as youth re-skilling, inclusivity, and a green recovery to #BuildBackBetter. To dive into Parliamentary Secretary Ehsassi’s answers, and the meaningful conversations that ensued, you can check out the recording of the event here.
At the close of the event, Vancouver Global Shaper George Benson brought a formal ask from Canadian youth to the Parliamentary Secretary: that young people be involved in the forthcoming Industry Strategy Councils and have a core, clearly articulated role in decision making and planning in Canada’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
To learn more about the Shapers’ proposal, please read the documentation sent to the Parliamentary Secretary’s office here.