Max Gardner: Politics in action

Chilliwack's Max Gardner, 17, as featured in The Chilliwack Progress Forty Under 40.

Max Gardner.

Max Gardner.

Max Gardner is just 17 years old, but already knows more about politics than most people 10 years his senior.

And he’s using that knowledge to educate his peers.

In the last election, Gardner was disgusted with Chilliwack’s voter turnout, which had less than 15 per cent of the eligible population going to the polls.

It was that election that sparked a collaboration between Gardner and fellow teen William Van Hoepen to start Todays2morrow, a Twitter account aimed at engaging the younger population in all things politics.

With Todays2morrow, Gardner hopes that by the time his age group can vote, they will exercise that right.

“Politics affect everything,” he said. “It affects the way we live. It affects everything that happens in society. And voting takes just 15 minutes of your day, it shows that you care, and that you’re a connected member of your community. It’s ridiculous not to vote.”

Gardner’s interest in politics started around eight years old, when sitting in his grandmother’s basement watching live coverage of Stephen Harper winning the leadership of the Conservative party.

His interest led him to a rally in Calgary a couple years later, where he was able to shake the hand of the newly elected prime minister. Then to Calgary City Hall to meet then Governor General Michelle Jean, who he gifted a bouquet of flowers to. And because he spoke fluent French to her, Jean invited him to sit in on the speech she gave.

“Any opportunity like that, I always try to take advantage of,” Gardner said. “ I think it’s important to expose yourself to people who have done great things, because then you’ll want to do great things too.”

Gardner doesn’t want to become a politician, but he does want to help others understand the importance of politics.

So far, he’s doing a good job.

During the recent teachers’ job action, Gardner created a Facebook page to inform his peers on the politics of the situation. He provided different links for both sides and created videos as well.

Gardner also organized a student walkout at Sardis secondary to oppose the government’s Bill 22 legislation. More than 100 students from Sardis participated.

Gardner hopes Todays2morrow will evolve into a program that reaches kids not just on Twitter and Facebook, but face-to-face in the schools. He and Van Hoepen are currently working on a presentation they hope to take into the schools.

“Grades 8 to 12 are the focus,” he said. “Grade 8 is when you really start thinking about what’s happening in the world around you, and learning about government in school. And so, if they see a young person close to their age talking about why they’re interested and how politics affect them, then maybe it’ll rub off.

“I don’t expect everyone to be gung-ho about politics,” said Gardner. “I just want them to care and go and vote.”