Lia Grainger
The Grid TO

Thursday morning, under mottled skies perfect for politicking, an eight-year-old girl named Penelope held her debut press conference on the front lawn of Queen’s Park. With gelled hair and clad in a killer pinstripe pantsuit, the candidate strode across the parking lot, shaking hands with the small crowd of sign-wielding supporters, before climbing atop a milk crate that lifted her tiny physique and carefully coiffed head just high enough to see over the podium.
“My name is Penelope,” she said. “This is my campaign to make sure the environment is at the top of the agenda this provincial election.”
Penelope (she is not using her last name) is at the centre of Environmental Defence’s provincial-election publicity campaign. She’ll spend the next month touring Ontario as a faux candidate, espousing the issues the organization would like to see at the forefront in the lead-up to October 6.
It’s a carefully packaged PR effort that is clearly tongue-in-cheek—Penelope mugged sassily for the cameras with a cellphone to her ear, and her slick website boasts about the many babies she’ll be kissing—yet there’s still something undeniably disconcerting about an eight-year-old in a tailored pantsuit, delivering talking points.

The real charm of this carefully staged event came when it ended. As the camera crews drove off, Penelope scuttled into the crowd to rest a blazered elbow on the shoulder of her friend and classmate, nine-year-old Jezebel.
“We take dance class together!” announced Jezebel, in response to a question about the environment, and the two giggled. Then Penelope leaned in and whispered something into little Jezebel’s ear that likely had little to do with the Greenbelt.