Corbin Kelley has a few years to go before he is eligible to vote. But that hasn’t stopped the Grade 10 student from getting involved in politics.
When Kelley, 15, is not busy with his studies at Vernon Community School (VCS), he can be found working behind the scenes of Liberal candidate Eric Foster’s campaign for re-election.
His interest in politics started in Grade 7 when he came up with the idea of dividing his class into three different countries and the United Nations, and holding a mock election.
“I didn’t win the presidency unfortunately, but I think I’ve always had that yearning to be a leader,” said Kelley, youth chair for the B.C. Liberal Riding Association, Vernon-Monashee.
His interest was further sparked by a visit to his Grade 8 class at VCS by Peter Fassbender, who was then minister of education.
“I spoke with his chief of staff, got his business card and ended up job-shadowing the minister for a week in the summer of 2015,” said Kelley. “While I was down there, there was a Canada Day church service at Peter’s church and the premier was in attendance and I was talking to her event coordinator who suggested that I come and job-shadow Eric,” said Kelley.
“He started asking me my political views and I job-shadowed him for a week in the winter of 2015 and he said we have a youth chapter in the B.C. Liberal party and don’t have any young members here in Vernon so if you want to get involved, you would be welcome to.”
Since then, Kelley’s interest has only grown and by the time he is old enough to vote he hopes to be well on the way to his future career in politics.
“I think it’s having the knowledge that some day if I decide to go into politics when I’m older, I’m going to inherit what governments of today do — some things are good, some things are bad, but I think it’s making sure that we have a strong economy and that we don’t put our province in enormous amounts of debt, so that if I ever decide to run for premier some time, I’m not inheriting billions of dollars of debt.”
Kelley said the B.C. Liberals have the largest youth chapter of any provincial party, and his own beliefs align strongly with the party’s platform.
For Kelley and his younger brother, politics is something that has always been openly discussed at home.
“My parents are not involved the way I am but they have a large understanding of politics and a very diverse understanding of politics,” he said. “I have grandparents who were in unions, very NDP, but they support me a lot in my politics and they will drive me down to Vancouver if there’s an event. My step-dad’s parents are very conservative, even though my grandpa belongs to a union, but they have the belief of keeping taxes low, getting people to work and improving our infrastructure, and it’s the same with my mom’s parents.”
For Kelley, the issues of greatest importance are education and housing.
“The government has introduced a new curriculum that is more self-directed because the cookie cutter system that we have had for hundreds of years isn’t working anymore and I think that we need to continue to do that and continue to support teachers in finding their way into this new way of teaching,” he said. “And I think low-cost housing is a big one as well because I don’t see us building giant blocks of social housing for people who are low-income for them to live there, I don’t think that’s right, to segregate people. I don’t think it’s right for me to be in a different neighbourhood because my parents are successful while another student at my school lives in a really awful neighbourhood because they’ve just been dealt a bad hand.”
When he’s not in school or working at Foster’s campaign office, Kelley enjoys running and golfing at the Kamloops Country Club, where his grandparents have a membership. And, while sitting down and tucking into a novel for pleasure is not something he enjoys, Kelley has no problem reading endless pages of platform consultations that are emailed to him.
His post-secondary plans include earning an undergrad degree in law at Thompson Rivers University, followed by a bachelor’s in economics before going into the field of real estate development.
“You don’t need a specific degree to get into politics, you have to have smarts and understand how things work, but I would like to see myself go into real estate development. It’s something about building a habitat for people.”
Meanwhile, when he is not keeping tabs on things through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, Kelley is on a mission to make sure those who are eligible get out and vote on Tuesday.
“With people who don’t vote, I don’t think you have a right to complain, but also, if you have to vote for a third party that isn’t a major party but that’s what is going to make you sleep, then I think that’s the biggest thing — just getting out and voting.”