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York University
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Glendon Student Canada’s Future Great Prime Minister


It’s all over the media: third-year Glendon political science student Joseph Lavoie is the winner of the nation-wide “The Next Great Prime Minister” competition! Everything about this event has been high-profile: the topic, the judges, the final competition on CBC-TV, and the prize!

Copyright Couvrette/Ottawa
Joseph Lavoie with former Prime Ministers the Rt. Honourable Joe Clark (on left)
and the Rt. Honourable Brian Mulroney (on right)

The contest is the brainchild of Frank Stronach, founder and Chairman of Magna International, who launched it in 1995 with the idea of searching out Canada's best and brightest future leaders. Stronach wanted to engage young Canadians in the political process and in envisioning the best possible future for the country.

Canadians between the ages of 18 and 25 were invited to share their ideas for making our country stronger and more prosperous - an important first step towards their future in politics, world affairs or social policy. After an intensive search, the judges selected four top contestants, based on short videotaped submissions detailing candidates’ views. They chose those with the most original ideas and the most effective delivery. These four, Glendon’s Lavoie, as well as Graeme Cunningham, Balinder Ahluwalia, and Alysia Garmulewicz were then invited to the great debate on the second annual “Next Great Prime Minister” program, a one-hour CBC-television special hosted by Rick Mercer, which aired on Sunday, March 18th at 7 p.m.

The judges of the competition, four former Canadian prime ministers: Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney obviously relished their task of engaging the finalists in a series of political discussions on difficult questions. The winner, Glendon’s Lavoie was chosen by the live voting studio audience.

Lavoie’s impressive performance and creative responses earned him first place with a cash prize of $50,000 and a prestigious six-month MDF Internship Program, named after the contest’s three sponsors: Magna International, the Dominion Institute and the Canada-US-Fulbright Program.

What did Lavoie propose for improving Canada? He focused on the cities, asserting that Canada's constitution, drafted 140 years ago for a predominantly rural population, no longer represents the country’s reality. He argued for more autonomy for cities, which he considers city-states, and demanded empowerment for them to implement policies that serve their unique needs. Further, he proposed structural changes for municipal governments, with direct accountability to citizens, rather than to provincial governments. He argued that rural Canadians would also thrive in a system where provincial governments are not monopolized by the unique demands of our cities. “Cities would have the necessary tools to participate successfully in a highly competitive global market”, concluded Lavoie. “With these changes in Canada, we can re-energize our country, usher in an era of economic prosperity, and be a model for the rest of the world”.

The child of a military family from Quebec, Joseph Lavoie has lived in many parts of the country. The breadth of his Canadian experience might be one reason why he has such a deep interest in the country as a whole.

Lavoie first discovered the award at his high school guidance office in Barrie. “I have been following this competition from its inception, when submissions were only on paper“, says Lavoie. “But this is the first time I had the courage to participate. Now that it is a televised program, the debate has become a really gruelling experience”. About his choice of Glendon as the place to study, he confirms that as a person who is equally at home in English and in French, Glendon’s bilingual reality and its downtown location were important factors.

“I've been a political junkie for a very long time. But the vision I presented on the show originated from a Glendon course in municipal politics. What I learned there allowed me to formulate a policy about our cities and the need to grant them more autonomy.”

After graduation this August, Lavoie will be working in the internships which are part of his prize, with the goal of eventually engaging in public policy or public relations. Says Lavoie, “Ideally, I hope to end up on the Hill as an MP and, who knows, perhaps even as Prime Minister, but that's a long way off. Right from the start, whether I won or lost, it was clear that the experience of this competition would provide me with a unique and valuable experience.”

This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny
Photo courtesy of Couvrette/Ottawa

Published on March 19, 2007