From classroom to the assembly
Student pages allow MLAs to focus on the big picture

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 28/97) - Through the long hours of debating the future of the North, members of the legislative assembly can be sure of one important thing -- their tongues will never go dry.

A host of pages -- recruited from schools in Yellowknife and across the north -- keeping their water glasses full.

Pages like Josee Gaudet perform a variety of other tasks as well. She passes notes, delivers statements and reports to the clerk. Gaudet also distributes earphone translator devices and information sheets to visitors, pushes in chairs and holds open doors.

"I think it's fun," said Gaudet, a Grade 8 student at Yellowknife's Ecole Allain St-Cyr. "And it's good experience for us, because we can put it on our resumes."

Tutored by Sergeant at Arms Tony Whitford, pages speed the business of the assembly. They allow members to focus their time and thought on the business of running government and representing their constituents.

Though she enjoys the job, Gaudet said she sees one great inequity.

"I think it's really unfair that the girls have to wear skirts and the guys have to wear constable pants."

Gaudet has worked as a page for the last two years.

Being chosen for the job is an honor, but it's also a privilege.

"If we talk in class we don't go. If we don't do homework we don't go. If we speak English we don't go," said Gaudet.

Four Yellowknife schools take turns providing pages to the assembly. Schools from other communities sent pages for a two-week period during this session.

With extended sitting hours this session, pages spend all of Monday, Wednesday and Friday, rather than half days, at the assembly.

Though working those longs hours makes for more homework, the extended hours give pages, who earn $7.10 an hour, a chance to pocket some more cash.

Eight pages work each day, taking half-hour shifts at eight different stations.

"The best place to be is upstairs (at the desk at the entrance to the gallery), because the boss isn't right beside you," Gaudet said.

And pages get different treatment from different MLAs.

"Seamus Henry's really nice, that's all I know," she said. "He always smiles and always tells you where the note is going and says thank you. Some of the other ones, even though we're just pages, could be a little more polite."