What’s important to students in the upcoming federal election.
Megan Amato // Associate News Editor
Canadians will head to the polls on October 21 to vote in the 2019 federal election. As always, student and young voter turnout is essential to ensure that the demographics of the country are represented in the ballot. Yet despite the stakes that students have in government policies, young voters have had the lowest voter turnout in past elections. With the wave of populism politics on the rise and emerging in governments around the globe, voters should be aware of where they get information regarding the issues they consider a priority.
In the last election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won by a landslide with nearly double the number of seats as Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Early poles in this election show the Liberals and Conservatives running neck and neck, with the Green Party gaining some footing and the Bloc Quebecois standing just behind. The People’s Party of Canada are a new right-wing party with views reflecting the rise of anti-immigration politics and populism prominent in the west. Most recently, the party has been criticized for anti-immigration billboards that went up across the country.
The 2015 federal election saw a 15 per cent increase in young voters when compared to the one previous. “We don’t know yet if that’s a trend that will continue along to this election or whether there was something about the campaign in the last election that sparked people’s interest,” said Lisa Drouillard, Director of Outreach at Elections Canada. “What we are really hoping for, and what we have a lot of research and data on is that if you vote, after the first time you do so, you don’t usually stop voting.”
Capilano Students’ Union (CSU), with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), is running a non-partisan Get Out the Vote campaign. The campaign aims to encourage students to be confident in their right to vote and ensure more young people make it to the polls. According to President and Vice-President Equity & Sustainability Emily Bridge, students can feel discouraged and assume their vote doesn’t count, while others might be unsure where to start. “We’re trying to empower students to educate themselves about the different parties…especially if it’s their first-time voting,” Bridge said.
Bridge wants to remove the fear and uncertainty from voting. Get Out the Vote will host a series of events, including an in-person debate among candidates from the major parties in the North Vancouver riding in the CSU Member Centre on September 30 and livestreaming the federal leaders debate in the CSU Member Centre on Oct. 1 and 7. Students will be able to vote at advance polling stations on campus from Oct. 5-9 and can attend the live results party in the CSU Member Centre on Oct. 21. “We are the largest voting demographic. We have a huge opportunity to actually make change here. We are a force for change.” Bridge added.
Elections Canada is also doing work to ensure information is accessible to young voters by working with groups such as Apathy is Boring and CASA to help educate students on voting. Election Canada has done more this year to ensure campaigns are accessible, especially to those with disabilities and language barriers. “We make sure that all of the campaigns use expertise to ensure that their material is in as plain of language as possible so that it’s easier for people who have literacy issues or speak other languages,” Drouillard said. She added that Elections Canada “ask campaigners to make sure facilities are accessible to people with disabilities including ramps and the appropriate kind of lighting and signage.”
When the Liberal Party of Canada was elected in 2015, after nearly a decade of Harper’s Conservative government in parliament, many young people felt optimistic. Business student Tainou Hoeve still feels positive about Trudeau. “I think he’s done some good things for the country and he’s an eloquent speaker,” Hoeve said. He agrees with the Liberal government’s ban on single use plastics, which Trudeau has promised to have in place by 2021.
Another topic that most students agreed upon was the cost of education. When asked what students wanted out of the election, most stated that federal student funding and grants for education must be prioritized. Many stated the need for free education.
Others, like student Ana Maria Caicedo, are afraid to vote outside of Liberal despite traditionally voting Green or NDP. “I hate strategic voting and I’ve never voted strategically before but I think the stakes are way too high to do that,” she said in a statement. “I’ve noticed the rise of white nationalism in the last decade, and the People’s Party of Canada is surging in popularity, while the Conservatives have so many members with ties to Rebel Media.” Rebel Media is an extremely right-winged political website with a heavy anti-Muslim message and far-right contributors, including Gavin McInnes, founder of the neo-fascist organization, The Proud Boys.
Regardless of the parties students choose to support, voting is essential in ensuring that the majority’s values and ideals are represented in parliament.