The City of Fernie is adopting a new set of requirements for its youth councilor.
Each year, one high school student in grade 11 or 12 is chosen to represent local youth on city council. On Aug. 22, council voted to adopt a new policy that would make expectations for the position more straightforward.
“The council for the City of Fernie believes strongly in investing in the youth in the community and also believes strongly in encouraging public engagement in local government, so one of the ways to achieve both is to seek direct engagement with youth through the council table,” said director of corporate administration services Jeff McConnell.
When deputy clerk Meredith Daniel went before council to suggest changes to the policy, she mentioned that there had been a significant lack of interest in the position in recent years, with only one application received in 2022. She attributed this to a lack of awareness on the position and unclear expectations as to what the role involved. While the policy specified that students had to bring their own perspective to council meetings, it did not say how often they were required to attend or what kind of skills or knowledge they had to contribute.
The new policy specifies that the student must complete a minimum of 30 participation hours through council meetings and city events, and sign the council code of conduct. It requires them to raise awareness of city operations within their peer group and to engage with local youth to learn about issues that are important for their age demographic.
Additionally, the city is attaching a $1,000 scholarship to the program to recognize the student’s contributions and effort.
The deadline for application is also less strict. A youth councilor will be selected no later than October of each year.
“The new policy sets up an expectation of hours to be put into the position … It enables the individual to choose from council meetings, but also attend public engagement sessions and to attend other functions that we may be hosting. It gives the individual a broader perspective of the work we undertake as a council,” McConnell explained.
Youth councilors who choose to take part in B.C Youth Parliament, must present a short oral or written report to council that reflects on their experiences.
B.C. Youth Parliament is a non-profit education service organization that enables youth to participate in parliament sessions. Each year, from Dec. 27 to 31, youth from across the province gather at the Legislative Chambers in Victoria, where they learn about the parliamentary process. They are able to debate government legislation, present bills and Private Members’ Resolutions, and vote on issues as independents. The City of Fernie will help the youth councilor with their application to the program, and pay for travel costs that the B.C. Youth Parliament does not cover, including mileage, meals and the $425 application fee.