Youngest ever MPP to take a seat at Queen's Park.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 25th, 2016



It is said that in order to know where you want to go, you need to know where you’ve been. In political life that is called experience and education. So what makes a 19 year old first-year university student think he has the qualifications to represent a provincial riding at Queen’s Park? And why would the electors put someone with so few qualifications into office.


Sam Oosterhoff elected to serve as the Member of the provincial parliament for Niagara West- Glanbrook.

That is what voters in the recent by-election of Niagara West-Glanbrook (NWG) did. Sam Oosterhoff is the youngest MPP to grace the halls of Queen’s Park, ever. It might be an age thing though. The voters in that area first elected former PC leader Tim Hudak at age 27 making him one of the youngest MPP’s at that time. And if this trend continues we could expect the next member from there to take up office at the ripe old age of eleven. Perhaps this is a brilliant strategy by the voters to engage youth in the political process. If we can’t get them to turn out to vote, then we’ll just have to elect them into office.

Or perhaps it is the fashion these days – electing unqualified candidates. People are fed up with those professional politicians who have worked their way up – you know the ones the rabble refer to as the elites. US president-elect Donald Trump is more than 50 years older than Sam, but has neither worked in government, nor sought, let alone been elected to, any political office. But that didn’t stop almost half of voting Americans from putting the ignoramus into the highest office in the land. Some Americans would rather have Sam as their president, I’m sure.

There is something about democracy ensuring that you get the government you deserve. And maybe experience doesn’t matter anymore. If that is the case then why do our MPP’s get six figure salaries? If experience counts for nothing what is this nonsense about having to pay the big bucks to attract good candidates, when any Joe can do the job? Not many of Sam’s peers at university will be pulling in that kind of dough as they finish off their degrees.

Isn’t it about respect in the end? How can we claim to respect our electoral system when almost anybody can be elected? Well anybody should be able to get elected, but wouldn’t it behoove them to at least have a little experience under their belt? There are few tests for candidates, though the political parties have a screening process. Did young Sam slip though the cracks or was this some kind of joke the Tories were playing on the electors.

The truth is that the only qualification that matters in politics is that you have been elected. Looking back to the US election, while everyone concedes that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate to contest that position in years, that alone didn’t get her elected. Sometimes it’s style, charisma, star quality or sympathy that wins the hearts of the voters – nothing to do with the candidates actual experience.

Progressive Conservative candidate Sam Oosterhoff, for Niagara-West Glanbrook, speaks to members of the media after casting his vote in the byelection at Spring Creek Church in Vineland, Ontario, Thursday, November 17, 2016. Oosterhoff, the 19-year-old PC candidate in Niagara who hopes to become the youngest ever member of the Ontario legislature, says people are angry about their hydro bills and industrial wind turbines installed in the riding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Progressive Conservative candidate Sam Oosterhoff, for Niagara-West Glanbrook, speaks to members of the media after casting his vote in the byelection at Spring Creek Church in Vineland, Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Some might say that electing Sam was a protest vote against the Wynne government, but NWG had been a Tory riding for over two decades – and re-electing a Tory is hardly a protest. That would be an even greater insult to Sam, who was likely running for what he could do, rather than trying to keep the government from doing what they do.

And while the Liberals may be stuck at the bottom of the polls, they had no trouble retaining the other by-election seat up for grabs last week in Ottawa-Vanier. So we can only wish Sam the best as he embraces his new job. It will be a full-time learning curve – and with his MPP salary, a very expensive education.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Niagara West-Glanbrook –    Sam Oosterhoff –  More Oosterhoff

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6 comments to Youngest ever MPP to take a seat at Queen’s Park.

  • John

    “Isn’t it about respect in the end?”

    Yes it is, speculating Sam won the by-election for any reason other than receiving more votes than any other candidate shows no respect for the good residents of NWG who took the time to vote.

    Those who believe they know better and can influence voters choices now have only explanations and excuses to offer, Sam doesn’t need either he won.

  • Gary

    This concept of young, inexperienced candidates was tried successfully by Jack Layton, federally, to great success in Quebec. One such candidate never even bothered to campaign, another was just starting in university, another did not speak French and was gambling in Las Vegas when the election was held. Jack got a state funeral as a posthumous reward for these. Give the guy a chance and let us see what he does. The same holds true for Trump.

  • Stephen White

    Mr. Oosterhoff clearly doesn’t fit the profile of what I or many Ontarians would regard as a “credible candidate” regardless of which political party he represented. He has had limited life experience, no work experience, has only just started post-secondary education, and has a fairly naive and underdeveloped political philosophy that is heavily imbued with evangelical Christian dogma. However, many taxpayers are simply so sick of this corrupt, incompetent and arrogant provincial Liberal government that I suspect they would elect the Tooth Fairy if the cumulative effect meant it would hasten Kathleen Wynne’s demise.

    Given the choice between Mr. Oosterhoff and some cloying, elitist Liberal supplicant who sits on the backbenches and does as he or she is told by the Liberal brain trust in the Premier’s Office I’d choose the former. Kathleen Wynne’s government is beyond repair and it’s time to take it off life support.

  • I feel societies may be viewed organically. As they grow in size and complexity there arise portions which begin to itch for segmentation or outright fission. We see this in the U.S. with renewed calls for secession (e.g. Texas). However, where fission is viewed as not possible we see intensified efforts to raise a subordinate segment to a mainstream power. We see that with the emergence of independent candidates and candidates routinely put forth by very narrow constituencies, or “special interests”. That these segments can grow to the level of upsetting the “normalcy” of established Party politics, even to the extent of being election “spoilers”, suggests an aging cellular process called apoptosis – cellular suicide.

    So, are we seeing the aging, degeneration, dementia, and eventual self destruction of the individual reflected in the process we are now seeing in the U.S., and starting in Canada? It has long been known, for example, that “primitive communism” cannot work, and has never worked above the band level of social complexity. Are we now seeing the upper limits of democracy in an increasingly dense, diverse, and complex society?

  • Dale Oliver

    Ray: “as you know the servants, so shall you know the masters”. Electing unqualified candidates is part of politics; Trudeau, a drama teacher, is the most unqualified; the premier of Alberta and most of her cabinet; Wynn in Ontario; an so on and so on

  • Phantom Edior

    I think the opposite is also true. If you are only 19 years old – there is little chance the candidate has any baggage.
    No email scams, no extra marital affairs, no Facebook photo of a racy Halloween costume or a drunken weekend. No bribery scandal.

    Voters want their public officials squeaky clean and that means electing 19 year old home-schooled live-at-home youngster.

    Once he’s in office he can become like the rest.