Enviro-thinking your way to the top in one easy step

By Ruth Davenport

Canada’s best budding political advisors will gather in Toronto next week, with a University of Calgary graduate student among them.

Environmental Design student Rachel McCormick was recently chosen from over 850 competitors as one of 50 semi-finalists in Magna International Inc.’s 2001 As Prime Minister Awards.

"It’s great, it’s kind of interesting," said McCormick of her success. "I’d submitted [my essay] so long ago. I hadn’t forgotten it, but it wasn’t at the front of my mind."

The As Prime Minister Awards are part of the Magna International Inc. Magna for Canada Scholarship fund, established in 1995.

"It’s a challenge to students across the country," explained George Marsland, Executive Director of the fund. "It was established with the sense that as the country is competing more globally and as that competition gets increasingly fierce, it’s important that we encourage students to develop innovative thoughts on how the country should be positioned to tackle these challenges."

Applicants to the program submitted 2500-word essays in response to the question "If you were the Prime Minister of Canada, what political vision would you offer to improve our living standards?"

McCormick’s submission focused on changes to environmental policy, targeting three major areas: policy development, policy tools and international relations. McCormick, a self-professed lifelong environmental watchdog, pointed out the importance of the environment in determining quality of life.

"Everyone has seemed surprised that I wrote on environment," she said. "It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch for me. The question was, how would you improve quality of life in Canada and environment is a key factor in quality of life and contributes to health and economic well being."

McCormick will travel to Toronto from Aug. 8-12 to present her proposition to a panel of judges comprised of leading Canadian journalists. Of the 50 semi-finalists, 10 will be selected as finalists in September and the winner will be declared in November. The finalists will share more than $300,000 in prizes, while the winner will receive $20,000 and a one-year paid internship position with Magna International Inc.

"We often try to stick with the students’ background and interest," explained Marsland of the internship. "In Rachel’s case, were she to be a winner, we’re starting to take a look at [Magna International’s] role on several issues, including environmental impact in the 20 countries where we operate ."

McCormick expressed enthusiasm over the contest experience as a whole and encouraged other students to participate.

"I thought it was interesting from the beginning, and the prize is quite substantial," she said. "The essay isn’t long, and it’s essentially an opinion piece, so it’s pretty easy to write because you just say what you think. The contest in Toronto is going to be really interesting too, to see 49 other people talk about what they do and probably mostly people that are really passionate."

Marsland pointed out that the biggest benefit was the opportunity for a student to provide input on the country’s development on a national and global scale.

"In many ways, this program is becoming is an opportunity to bring together emerging leaders," said Marsland. "This year in particular, with the things that have been happening around the globalization issue, many young people feel very strongly that Canada has an important point of view. They can be very constructive in world terms of offering the Canadian view to world institutions and the world agenda."

For more information on the program rules, visit http://www.asprimeminister.com.

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