Zach Hatton is a man with a mission. He wants to see fresh, youthful faces in the Ontario legislature — and he wants one of those faces to be his.
Hatton is a 17-year-old Peterborough native who hopes to be nominated to represent the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Peterborough-Kawartha riding in the next provincial election June 7.
Ever since he was three years old, sitting at the kitchen table listening to his great-grandfather talk about his love for the CCF (the earlier version of the NDP) and the NDP and their principles, Zach has been fascinated by politics.
“The wold runs on politics,” he said, in a recent interview. “If I were to become the MPP for this riding, it would be an amazing thing to be able to give back to the community and be able to make Peterborough-Kawartha a better place.”
He describes himself as an “honest, trustworthy, young male whose experiences outweigh his age.”
“What I bring to the table is a fresh perspective. There are so many MPPs aged 60+. We need more youth and fresh faces,” Hatton said.
When he was 14 and volunteering at Peterborough’s Cogeco TV (now YourTV, a community cable channel), he saw a debate among candidates for the Ontario 2014 election.
“The day after, I started knocking on doors for Sheila Woods, who was running for the NDP. I’ve been involved in every election in the area since.”
Last March, Hatton decided to put his name in for the nomination, with the backing of this family and supporters. He formally announced his intention on July 20.
“This was something I wanted to do. And ever since, we’ve been in campaign mode,” he said.
That means going to events, having meaningful conversations with people, introducing himself to the community and having the community introduce itself to him. His young age hasn’t stopped him.
“I’ve learned so much about policy and even organizational skills and effective ways to manage my time.”
Issues that concern him — and they’re not just youth issues — are the under-funding of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, high Hydro costs, mental health, and education, he said.
“There’s 300 schools already closed in the province, and 300 more on the chopping block. In my lifetime, I have seen two schools close — Lakefield District Secondary School and PCVS — in the city. It’s about making sure schools don’t have to close and keeping our students in a stable environment.”
Hatton says he chose the NDP because he believes in the working people of Ontario.
“I believe in democratic socialism, but most importantly I believe the working class has been hurt and only an NDP government will institute the necessary changes to help them.”
Right now, he is basing his platform on the Ontario NDP Vision Book, but if he is nominated, he will release a local platform geared to the riding, he said.
Charlene Avon, a board member of the Peterborough-Kawartha Joint Federal-Provincial Executive for 2017, has known Hatton for four years and has worked with him in many community areas, including the last municipal election.
“He is a wonderful ambassador for Peterborough and surrounding area,” she told JOURNEY Magazine. “I am excited to see the youth venture into the area of politics in such a positive manner.”
“No matter what he takes on, one can count on him giving it his all. I am honoured to know him and watch him in his deep commitment to the city and her people,” she said.
Hatton, who will turn 18 in January, participated in lacrosse and army cadets when younger. He still volunteers at YourTV helping with sports and political programming, and he still finds time for curling.
He is the son of Christopher, who works at Kadex Aero, and Stephanie, who is a health care worker with Central East LHIN. He has a sister, Katie, who is 12. Hatton is a Grade 12 student at St. Peter Secondary School in Peterborough.
The response to his nomination bid, both inside and outside the riding, has been “absolutely amazing”, he said.
“I can’t thank the people enough for the support shown. People are wishing me the best, offering to volunteer, giving money to the campaign. This support is what drives me to keep going each day.”
The nomination date and place has not yet been released to the media, but if people want to vote at it, they can become a member at ontariondp.ca, he said. One other person, Sean Conway, music programmer at The Garnet, is also seeking the nomination. Whoever wins will be up against incumbent Jeff Leal, who is running for the Liberals, and Dave Smith, who is running for the Progressive Conservatives.
If a political future isn’t in the cards, Hatton would like to become a teacher, have a family, live in Peterborough, and “hopefully do great things for the community that raised me.”
By Melodie McCullough