When he was just 13 years old, Zach Paikin volunteered on his first election campaign. Even though he was doing only the basic tasks a young volunteer might be asked to do, he remembers the experience fondly.
He went on to be one of the founding members and co-chairs of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) High School Working Group and dreamed that one day he would be able to make a real impact on Canada’s political scene.
This January, his dream might become a reality if he succeeds in his campaign to become the Liberal Party of Canada policy chair.
Paikin, now 20, is a McGill student majoring in Middle East studies. He grew up in Toronto and attended a French immersion school, Lycee Francais de Toronto, where he became fluent in French. Ever since he was a young child, his father, Steve Paikin, anchor and senior editor of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, would take him to political events that he was covering.
Paikin soon realized he was very passionate about Canadian politics and decided on a party he could identify with.
After volunteering with the Conservatives, the Liberals, the New Democratic Party and the Green party, Paikin found the Liberal party matched his classical liberal economic views and his ideological views on the type of country Canada should be.
“It’s hard to say at age 14 that you know where you want your country to go, but watching the Liberal party retreat from power gives you an indication of where you think it’s possible to rebuild,” said Paikin.
From a young age, he immersed himself in the world of Canadian politics. In high school, he helped co-found and lead CJPAC’s High School Working Group, an initiative designed to engage high school students in the Canadian political process.
“We were brought out to political events and it allowed us to network in the field, to train and learn simple skills in the office. The people I worked with later went on to become CJPAC campus fellows across Canadian university campus and my good friends as well.”
After watching the Liberal party suffer a huge defeat in the recent federal election, Paikin knew the party needed a change and that he wanted to be involved in that process.
“We need to fix the basic structure of the party. It’s too bureaucratic, it’s too difficult to get involved and they’re not in touch with the grassroots at all. If we’re going to rebuild and move forward from this defeat, the party needs to embrace serious change and younger people are more prepared to lead that change,” said Paikin.
In January, riding associations across Canada will send delegates to Ottawa for a convention, where the voting for the executive roles will take place. Until then, Paikin will be campaigning to – as he sees it – save the Liberal Party of Canada.
“There’s not enough room in Canada for two or three parties on the left so the Liberal party really needs to decide what it stands for and earn back the seats we lost,” said Paikin.
He hopes more young people get involved in the party as well. In addition to his political involvement on campus, Paikin also sits on the board of directors of the Mount Royal Liberal Association in Quebec and is a political columnist for the student newspaper the Prince Arthur Herald.
“I’m ready to move up, to create a national policy change. My age is not a limitation but an advantage. The executives of the Liberal party should be made up of people in their 20s and 30s, not 50s and 60s,” said Paikin.
Keith Torrie, national director of the Liberal Party of Canada, agrees it’s vital young people get involved.
“Our engagement ensures our values are represented in the decision-making process. We don’t want to inherit a society in which we don’t see our values,” said Torrie. He points out that it was the young Liberals who pushed Paul Martin to make same-sex marriage legal in Canada.
“The Young Liberals of Canada mandate is to engage young Canadians in the Liberal party to help ensure the party reflects the values of young progressive, compassionate Canadians. With that mandate we have come halfway to helping shape politics by influencing a political party to choose, leaders and policies that are youth friendly,” Torrie said. By running this campaign, Paikin hopes to do just that.
In the coming months, Paikin is campaigning to get himself taken seriously by the older, more experienced members of his party and prove that the change he wants to bring is necessary to the party’s rebirth.
“It’s not easy running this campaign, but adversity keeps me going, and it makes me more convinced of my own beliefs because I know I need to provide an alternative perspective,” said Paikin. “That’s what keeps me motivated.”
For more information about Paikin, visit www.votepaikin.ca.