A high school co-op at a Thunder Bay radio station turned out to be the first step on a journey that’s taken 24-year-old Matt Pascuzzo to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The co-op gave the aspiring journalist the chance to cover city council news. “It really opened my eyes to how much politics affects everybody’s daily life,” Matt explains. It was there that he first met Patty Hajdu, now the MP for the Thunder Bay—Superior North riding and the Minister of Employment, Workforce, and Labour.
“Patty came to council when she was the director of Shelter House,” Matt says, “She had practical solutions to problems like homelessness and poverty.
A few years later, Hajdu was running as a candidate in the 2015 federal election and Matt was a second-year Lakehead student majoring in political science and minoring in Indigenous studies. He was also becoming an active member of the Liberal Party, prompting Hajdu to ask him to be her youth director.
“I decided that I could sit on the sidelines and criticize or get in the middle and make a difference,” Matt recalls.
He excelled in his role and was promoted to campaign director. “I’d go to class in the morning, then go door knocking for the campaign, go back to school, eat supper, and go door knocking again.”
It was a lot to take on, but Matt’s mother Carol, a vice-principal, and his father John, Lakehead University’s AQ and PQP Education Manager, were supportive – although a little nervous.
“Throughout the time leading up to the election,” explains Carol, “Minister Hajdu would say to us, ‘When I go I’m taking him with me,’ and we would respond, ‘Well, he has to finish school.’”
When Patty Hajdu won her seat and was appointed the Minister of Status of Women, Matt moved to Ottawa as her executive assistant. A year later, he became her press secretary. “Working on Parliament Hill is exciting,” Matt says. “Regardless of your political affiliation, people are trying to do the right thing for their communities.” He also kept his promise to his parents and finished his degree by taking online courses.
Everything changed again in 2018 when he was recruited as a press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. “Matt asked if we would look over his résumé but never mentioned why,” his father says. “When he told us he’d secured a position in the Prime Minister’s Office we were extremely surprised and ecstatic.”
How does Matt handle the pressure? He follows the top two rules of being a staffer – eat when you can and sleep when you can. “It’s an incredible opportunity,” he says, “especially when we travel across the country. People are genuinely excited when the prime minister visits their town, even if they disagree with him.”
Matt feels honoured that his career is allowing him to witness watershed moments in Canadian history – including the G20 summit in Argentina where the NAFTA trade bill was signed. “It was a surreal experience being with the world leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world.”
Pictured below: On March 22, Matt returned to Lakehead University for a town hall with Prime Minister Trudeau. “My family was excited that they had the chance to meet the Prime Minister,” Matt says, “especially since they helped out on the 2015 election campaign.”