POLITICS

NDP Youth: At Convention, Next Generation Sees Hope In Candidates

03/23/2012 02:27 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT
The Huffington Post Canada

The reputation of the NDP as a young party was cemented by the abundance of fresh-faced supporters at the forefront of the leadership convention on Friday, who see themselves as an important factor in shaping the future of a party that's seeking renewal.

From the pre-teens hoisting signs in support of Thomas Mulcair at the entrance of the convention hall to the flash mob that broke out in dance for candidate Peggy Nash, the influence of youth was everywhere.

LIVE BLOG: UPDATES FROM THE CONVENTION FLOOR

Young people, whose vote was key to giving the NDP official opposition status in the last federal election, say they will continue to play an important role. 

Convention Coverage, HuffPost Style: The Huffington Post Canada brings you comprehensive coverage of the NDP leadership convention in Toronto, with photos, behind-the-scenes video, opinion and reporting from the convention floor.

Follow us at @HuffPostCanada, on our Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj's Facebook Page, on our NDP leadership site, and on our politics page and our front page. Friday, we cover candidate speeches and a tribute to Jack Layton. Saturday morning, we follow the rounds of voting that will end with the new leader.

It’s a responsibility that 12-year-old Katelyn Jefford takes seriously.

Jefford, who came to the convention with her mother, says her demographic is attracted to the NDP because of the party’s commitment to the environment.

"There’s global warming and we’re the new generation, so it's kind of up to us," she said.

When asked to justify her support for Nash, Jefford, who says she would one day like to run for party leadership herself, sounded decidedly adult.

"In my eyes, Jack Layton will always be the face of the NDP, but I think he believed that Peggy Nash would be a good replacement for him because I see great leadership skills in both of them," she said.

Though Jefford has been interested in politics since she was "really small," she says Layton’s parting words, oft repeated since his death in August, struck a chord.

"I always thought that love is stronger than hate, but on March Break I read a sign that it was Jack Layton’s saying and I was like, 'Oh my gosh,'" she said.

Oliver Wilson, 11, is equally passionate about his candidate of choice, Mulcair.

As the event got underway, Wilson and his father were among a handful of volunteers hoisting placards at the entrance to the convention hall. 

"Mulcair has 58 seats in Quebec. He’s really concerned about the environment," said Wilson, who spent part of Wednesday at Mulcair’s office, making calls to NDP members in Manitoba and Alberta. 

Above, Katelyn Jefford and her family.

"I was asking them what they thought, who they were going to vote for and who is their first choice," he said.

As 14-year-old Egan Chambers, another Mulcair supporter, sees it, the opportunity to transform the party is a major selling point.

"I think it's the whole modernization thing. We have to become a new party," he said. 

Though his dad encouraged him to volunteer at the convention, Chambers says he plans to remain actively involved. 

"It’s fun to do this," he said.

The same is true of Christopher Robson, 12, who was among those chanting in support of leadership candidate Brian Topp on Friday morning.   

"I just like being involved in things,” he said. “I get to have a say in maybe who is going to be the next prime minister of Canada.”

THE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

NDP leadership candidates

LIVE FROM THE NDP CONVENTION FLOOR