By Stewart Grant
As one of 338 young women given the opportunity to represent their respective ridings in Ottawa on March 8th (International Women’s Day) for the “Daughters of the Vote” event, Andrea Strathdee did great service to our riding of Perth-Wellington. In a video shared on Facebook by her proud father, St. Marys mayor Al Strathdee, Andrea spoke eloquently in the House of Commons on the importance of maintaining appropriate infrastructure spending in less-populated, rural ridings that support key industries such as agriculture and manufacturing.
This week, I had the chance to speak with Andrea about what it was like to participate in the “Daughters of the Vote” event and to interact with young Canadians hailing from all sorts of different backgrounds. “It was really amazing, said Strathdee. “I actually had a lot of people come up to me following my speech saying that, coming from the city, they had never really thought about these issues that rural communities have to deal with.”
During the four-day event, Andrea and her contemporaries took part in policy workshops, participated in leadership panel discussions with successful women business leaders and politicians, and were addressed in the House of Commons by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. “It is a glorious sight to see you all here,” beamed Campbell to the group of talented young women as part of her insightful and entertaining speech.
The “Daughters of the Vote” event was organized by Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization whose goals are to engage women in the political process and to promote an increase in the number of women in elected office throughout the nation. Strathdee applied to participate in the program approximately a year ago before being selected to represent her riding.
Andrea gained international experience by living in Brazil in 2013/14 through the Rotary Exchange Program. She is now in her first year at Carleton University, working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management. While living in Ottawa for school, she is also gaining great work experience as an intern with Perth-Wellington MP John Nater.
Currently just 19 years of age, Strathdee has not yet had an opportunity to cast her vote in either a federal or provincial election, but she is keeping a close eye on the Conservative Leadership race. With such a large group of candidates running for leader of the party, I asked Andrea for advice on how to figure out whom to vote for. “I’d suggest focusing on the half-dozen candidates who we know have the best chance of winning, because realistically the winner will come out of that group.” She rhymed off names like Chong, Bernier, Raitt, O’Toole, and Scheer. One high-profile name was notable for its absence. When questioned about O’Leary, she felt that his lack of support from the province of Quebec would make his election difficult.
I then asked Andrea to predict the first-place and second-place finishers and she was kind enough to offer her thoughts: “I’ll predict Andrew Scheer is number one (bilingual, young – 37, youngest ever speaker in the House, broad MP support, will unite the party as he is looking towards the future of the conservative movement, anti-carbon tax and committed to balancing the budget), and Michael Chong is number two (also bilingual, very progressive, redirects the party after the Harper years, would do well in both urban/rural ridings, would grow the party and attract younger voters).”
Perhaps someday in the future, we will be following Andrea Strathdee’s candidacy for public office. At just nineteen years of age, she is certainly off to a great start in whatever career path she chooses.