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Turning a page on a short life

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 17/01) - The first thing you notice about Dan Attwood is that he's not tall. Weaving and bobbing through the legislature, the 14-year-old Grade 8 student barely rises over the heads of the seated MLAs.

But then you talk to him, and realize his presence outstrips his stature. He speaks quickly and confidently. His sarcasm is mature and funny.

Attwood is a page, charged with shuttling around papers and documents for legislators. On some days, he swings wide the door for the politicians. He does the occasional water run, too.

He is at the legislature every day from 12:30 p.m. to, in his words, "God knows when."

He brings in a handsome $10 an hour. That means he gets paid to miss school; not a bad proposition for a teen who can't name a favourite subject.

"Hmmmm ... the least boring subject," he muses, and then looks up confidently. "They all suck."

Although other pages complain about how tedious the job can be, Attwood says the boredom is worth the benefits. But he does appreciate it when he has things to do. He likes working for the Speaker Kevin O'Brien best, but his favourite MLA is Health Minister Ed Picco.

"He sends lots of documents. It keeps me busy," he says.

Raised on a cattle farm in the South, he moved to Iqaluit when he was seven. His mother, Kate, is the assistant to the Speaker.

It wasn't through her that he got in, though. Announcements are occasionally made at Inuksuk high school requesting volunteers to be pages. He stepped forward and took a stab at it. That was a few weeks ago. He returned for another week.

Last time, he used the money to buy Christmas gifts for his family. This time, the money is for him. What is he going to use it for?

Coffee, among other things. He started drinking the brew long before working with the adult crowd.

And mingling with politicians hasn't given him any inclination to join their ranks. Asked if he wants to be one, his answer is a flat "no."

Is he at least interested in the subject matter?

"Not really."

In fact, he doesn't want to work in the public sphere at all. When the week-long stints as page have ended and his schooling days are over, he wants to return to his roots.

"It's silly, really, but I want to be a beef farmer. You're your own boss and if you miss a day there's nothing to catch up on."