Two University of Manitoba students are running for school trustee as part of Winnipeg’s 2014 municipal election, taking place Oct. 22.
The Manitoban asked both candidates about themselves and their experiences running for office.
Tanjit Nagra is an 18-year-old arts student majoring in political studies. She’s also the outgoing vice-president of the U1 student council and the vice-president external of the undergrad political studies students’ association.
Nagra is one of three candidates for school trustee in Ward 1 of the Louis Riel School Division. She is facing off against incumbent Louise Johnston and labour endorsed Cindy Turner. Two of the three candidates will be elected to represent the ward.
Nagra said if elected she’ll bring a fresh perspective to the position while sustaining what has been done over the last four-year term.
“Things I’d like to advocate for is inclusiveness – providing equal opportunity for all students, whether that’s LGBT* rights or whether its students with disabilities or special needs. I think it’s important that they have the tools they need to succeed.”
Nagra isn’t a francophone—although she’s taken French as an elective and speaks it at a basic level —but said that she’s also campaigning on sustaining French immersion programs in the Louis Riel School Division.
Nagra said two of the major barriers to students participating in elections are the time commitments associated with classes and knowing how to get involved in the process.
“Being a student is obviously time-consuming. I am taking a lighter course load. In the summer I took extra courses just so I had the option of only going to school part-time this year that way I can fully commit to my campaign – but I think sometimes it’s also just not knowing how to get involved or who to reach out to.”
Nagra said she did not know she would be committing to candidacy in the 2014 election last year.
“It’s just something I started researching. I started attending the public board meetings the division has and I really started enjoying it. And I started reaching out to trustees, just kind of seeing what it would be like if [I was] in that position.”
Luigi Imbrogno is another candidate for school trustee in the 2014 election. Imbrogno is an 18-year-old U1 student pursuing a science degree at the University of Manitoba. He was recently elected president of the U1 council at the U of M and has worked as a volunteer for Jon Gerrard, Manitoba’s only Liberal MLA.
Imbrogno is running in Winnipeg School Division – Ward 1. The ward is arguably the most contested in the city with seven candidates in the running and only one to be elected.
River East Transcona School Division – Ward 1 also has seven candidates running but is electing two. Louis Riel School Division – Ward 3 has eight candidates running but is electing three of them. Similarly, Seven Oaks School Division – Ward 2 has nine candidates running but is electing four of them.
Other candidates for the ward include Heather Condona, Paul Guise, David Lobson, Sheri Oberman, Sherri Rollins, and Marilyn Simon.
Imbrogno said the thing that sets him apart from the other candidates is the fact that he still knows what it is like to be a student.
“I just went through the Winnipeg School Division system. It’s all fresh in my mind so I have that hands-on, practical knowledge of what’s going to help students my age and what programs [we are] spending money on that we don’t need to spend money on.”
Imbrogno said he has been engaged in a lot of door-to-door campaigning in his bid for school trustee and that he has encountered people who are skeptical about him as a candidate because of his age, but that overall most voters are very receptive.
“I think it’s more that people won’t take you seriously at first. They’ll think it’s kind of a joke.
“There’s that stigma [that] you need to be experienced and an older person to run for office outside of a student body council.”
UMSU vice-president internal Jeremiah Kopp ran for school trustee for Louis Riel School Division in a 2011 by-election. In the eight-person race, Kopp came in second place with 817 votes, losing out to Colleen Mayer who received 976 votes.
Kopp said he had no regrets about his run for school trustee.
“It was definitely a fantastic experience. In many ways it prepared me for working for UMSU in terms of running campaigns and being involved and being a politician.
“I hope it’s been rewarding process for them as well. I know them personally, they’re two outstanding young leaders in our community and regardless of the outcome of this election they will play important roles in Winnipeg’s future. Both fantastic individuals, both very young but can bring a lot to the table.”
Kopp said he was happy to see young people getting involved in politics and hoped to see more young people getting involved in the future.
“Just put your name out there. Put your ideas out there. Always work hard and never get discouraged if things don’t go the way you want them to. Keep trying.
“Politics is a very noble thing to get involved with. You’re always going to have people who are trying to hold you back but ultimately if you’ve got a vision and if you’ve got a passion for it then you have to keep pushing and keep trying no matter what.”