In an event organized by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) at UTSC, MPP Scarborough—Agincourt Aris Babikian spoke at a round table discussion on November 19 revolving around youth engagement in politics.

Babikian, a Progressive Conservative (PC) MPP and Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, dove into his journey as an immigrant in Canada over 40 years ago to his role in the parliament today.

A short Q&A session included questions about the difficulties of campaigning, the role of media in politics, and the importance of networking.

“I always tell children, you should go out and volunteer. Choose whatever field you want, but go out and volunteer,” Babikian said while talking about networking. “Volunteerism is also very important for ourselves — you are building up your network and you’re learning something new. You’ll never know who you’ll meet or when you’re going to need those set of friends.”

Babikian also talked about how politics affect everyone in some way and why he decided to get into it. “The bureaucracy don’t care about what we go through… they sit on their ivory towers and don’t care about what we go through. This is one more reason why I wanted to get involved.”

He continued, “I always tell young children that instead of all those people making decisions for you, you should make those decisions for yourself.”

When asked about the difficulty of campaigning and running against a well-known persona such as former MPP Soo Wong, he discussed the importance of recognizing the weak points of the opponent’s platform and doing good research.

“You need to choose your battle very carefully,” Babikian said. “You need to study the riding, the weaknesses, and the strength of your opponents. I knew her weak point was other [demographic] groups.”

He gave insight into why and how he targeted the Chinese population in the area: “Because of my connections and networks, I started building relationships and I calculated that if I could get 10 per cent of the Chinese population in my riding, I could be in a good place.”

To elaborate, he talked about how he used WeChat as a tool to get more involved in the Chinese community.

“WeChat is an amazing tool to reach out to the Chinese community. It’s like Chinese Facebook. I created three to four WeChat groups, and I started attending Chinese events — I went to these events because I knew these events will be covered by Chinese media.”

“All my literature was in two languages — Chinese and English,” he added. “I always took a Chinese volunteer with me. If I went alone, they would not talk to me. But when I took a Chinese person, they would suddenly open up to me and start becoming friendly.”

When asked about the role and the impact of media during campaigning, Babikian expressed a strong disdain for media and said that it is something he stays clear of. “Media is always a dangerous affair. As conservatives, we don’t win with the media. The media is generally negative towards us.”