Voting: Child's Play?

Voting: Child's Play?

By: coopcom
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Voting: Child's Play

Jessica Doherty | Volunteer Services Assistant

As a democratic country, voting is our primary way as citizens to contribute to the way our country is run, and yet in the last election only 65% of Canadians turned out at the polls - part of a trend that has seen a steady decline over the last ten years. In the 18-24 demographic only 44% cast a vote! Is this a political stance against the choices available or do Canadians (especially young Canadians) just not care?

Elections Canada, in an effort to draw in new voters, mailed over 406,000 “Leave Your Mark” postcards to young voters newly eligible to vote, with information on the upcoming federal election. The five parties involved in the debates have added new media applications to their official websites in an attempt to stay current and attract the tech-savvy youth market. Facebook groups, Twitter updates, blog entries and Youtube channels have all been tapped to spread the party line.

Is all that effort making much of a difference? According to the Dominion Institute of Canada’s 2008 Youth Election Study, only one in ten young Canadians feel that political parties are engaging them through new media. A quick glance south of the border shows a different offering. Last November, the American political debates allowed the public to create Youtube videos to express their concerns creatively and speak directly to the potential candidates. Going a step further, American presidential candidate Barack Obama’s website has been lauded for its dynamic content and youth appeal. Users can even create their own social network through an application called MyBO—a social networking community that is more popular than its name suggests. All of these tactics are aimed at engaging a younger audience and mobilizing them to the polls. To illustrate the far-reaching impact of this marketing move, the same Canadian Youth Election study found that two-thirds of young Canadians would vote for Barack Obama if they could.

While the perception is that Canadian parties are not doing enough to mobilize the youth market, through education and participation, young Canadians can navigate the political arena on their own and begin to make a difference in their communities and their country. Think City is a Vancouver based organization connected to SFU through the Master of Public Policy program. Their focus in on increasing civic voice by connecting people in Vancouver to the issues that face their community. This program is a good example of how public forums and dialogue can inspire and mobilize community based solutions. The Youth Election Study found the environment and education to be at the forefront of issues that affect youth in Canada and with an untapped voting population hovering around 60% the power to effect change in those areas is very real.

It is hard not to become disenchanted with all the “attack advertisements” and smear campaigns from Canada’s political parties, which is why it is important for the voting public to take matters into their own hands. Becoming educated on the issues and the different party platforms will help voters read between the lines and spot the spin. In this year’s election, five parties took part in the political debates on October 1st (in French) and October 2nd (in English). As opposed to campaign websites and advertisements, the debates offer an unscripted look at Canada’s potential leaders and their party platforms. Other sources of information include the CBC coverage online and the Elections Canada website.

Tomorrow it will be our generation in charge, and we can lay the foundation for that through civic involvement today. Whether it’s in the Federal Election on October 14th, BC municipal elections in November, the provincial election next May, a public forum, or the opinions section of a local newspaper, there is room for the youth voice. Buck the trend and show that you care!

Beyond the Article

For more information on the platforms of the parties involved in the debates, check out their websites:
Conservative Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
New Democratic Party of Canada
Bloc Quebecois
Green Party of Canada

Still not sure if you want to vote? Maybe these websites will change your mind.
Apathy is Boring
Student Vote

Posted on December 21, 2010