Volume 96, Issue 81
Wednesday, March 5, 2003

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Low profile not very Manley

While John Manley, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, made his second appearance at Western in recent months, students and the general public were once again denied access to the Liberal politician yesterday.

Western promoted the visit all over their Web site, but one question remained: where was Manley?

Shuffled behind closed doors and back passageways, Manley was largely unavailable, other than to a few student politicos and media members. Even then, he was surrounded with tight security and available for only a few moments behind the closed doors of the University Students' Council office. Other than a brief surprise appearance in one Business 257 classroom, Manley was an arms length entity on campus.

Complaints about student apathy towards politics are plentiful, and situations such as this one do little to alleviate the problem. If politicians made a concerted effort to be more available to students, and even the general population, then a greater interest in politics would likely arise.

Manley would personally benefit from sparing some time in his day to speak to students, or being receptive to questions from the public. Sure, Manley is making an effort to visit Western, but when you only visit the same administrative bigwigs or student politicians – it is not to the benefit of a larger audience.

There are very few speakers who could fill the McKellar Room, and, as a politician, Manley should be the first to realize the benefits of such a public performance. As a leader and a representative of the population, politicians should make themselves more available to the Canadian public.

Manley is certainly not the first politician guilty of avoiding the masses. Keeping a low profile is a negative trend, which the vast majority of politicians adhere to. While there are some exceptions to this rule, such as Progressive Conservative party leader and former prime minister Joe Clark, politicians that make themselves accessible during visits to Western are in the minority.

For example, where is Dianne Cunningham? Not only is she the member of provincial parliament for London North Centre, but she is also the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. She has rarely – if ever – made herself available to speak at Western, a university in her own riding. One would think of Western as a prime location for her to speak to the general population of students and take questions from them.

We are not calling for politicians to bend over backwards. It doesn't take long to rhyme off a speech and take questions from the audience – an hour would be ample time. It would be a mutually beneficial approach for both students and politicians and may dispel some students' apathy towards the political process.





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