Could UWO student become ‘Next Great Prime Minister’?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western student Becky Zener may have what it takes to become Canada’s “Next Great Prime Minister.”

Zener, who entered CBC’s second annual The Next Great Prime Minister competition during the show’s recent visit to The Spoke Lounge, was selected as one of the show’s 25 finalists from more than 350 applicants.

The contest will culminate in a one-hour special hosted by CBC’s Rick Mercer and judged by former prime ministers Brian Mulroney, John Turner, Kim Campbell and Joe Clark.

The winner receives a $50,000 cash prize and a six-month paid internship.

The ideal entrant is someone who understands political structures, has good ideas, and can articulate these ideas effectively, said Dan Donovan, vice-president of public affairs for The Next Great Prime Minister.

“We’re looking for leaders... young people who have ideas that are a little outside of the box " not the traditional stuff that you get about politics or policy,” Donovan said. “We’re looking for people who are genuine and who bring a sense of realism to solving problems... we are looking for people who are passionate.”

Approximately 25 to 35 Western students were part of the original contestant pool, Donovan added.

The judging panel is currently selecting 10 applicants from the 25 finalists. Only four candidates will compete in CBC’s televised broadcast.

Zener entered on a whim when her friend encouraged her to enter with him.

“It wasn’t something I intended to do,” Zener said. “My friend asked me to do it with him so I did. It was a surprise to me when I heard I was a finalist, because I was in Hawaii and my background is in biology.”

In her audition, Zener focused on two-tier health care, environmental issues, increased access to education, and the need for an increase in the number of first-generation students attending university.

“I fully believe in a two-tier health-care system,” Zener said. “I think it’s a right for people to have a choice... we need to have a system that emulates the British system where doctors who choose to work in the private system are also required to work a minimum amount in the public system.”

The Next Great Prime Minister broadcasts Sunday, March 18 at 7 p.m. on CBC.

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