Youth party representatives display a collaborative future for democracy

September 20, 2021

By: Claire Patterson, Marketing and Engagement Assistant at Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

With the writ dropped only 5 weeks before we head to polls on September 20th, political campaigns are rolling out aggressively as seen on the first full day of the campaign. But will the tone of this ad-hoc, full steam ahead approach to communicating with voters only lead to further polarization, democratic recession, and lack of votes from youth

For young people navigating the election, the media’s representation of opposing sides perpetuates a polarization that already makes approaching politics deeply confusing. However, youth in Canada make up over 40% of eligible voters. That’s the largest voting bloc in the country. It is important that youth can make sense of the party platforms and understand what policies are specifically curated to them and the issues they care about. Youth should understand what is in a vote and why theirs matters.

On September 14th the Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue hosted a youth leader forum to discuss climate change, racial equity, and mental health support, issues that have been identified to be pressing for youth. Youth leaders from the Green, NDP, Liberal, and Conservative showed up to have a dialogue about issues that they each care about. They were able to discuss the importance of finding solutions for these issues despite differing approaches to solving them through their selective partisan parties. 

The dialogical format of the event strayed from the type of heated communication that has been seen in recent leader debates. Instead, youth representatives were able to meet person to person and leave the political personas behind. The event was watched by youth attendees from across the nation, who participated in a poll about whether the leader’s debate engaged youth. The answer was largely no, with 68% of attendees feeling unengaged by the conversation had by federal party leaders.

The youth representatives from the parties hope to better engage future generations in politics. “You can’t make change from the sidelines” notes Jadean Dela Torre, the NDP representative. 

Julie Astley for the Liberals, Kayne Alley-Adams for the Greens and, Anthony Koch representing the Conservatives joined Dela Torre with stepping into center stage as each took turns discussing topics such as the green economy, reconciliation, collaboration between indigenous groups and government, and systemic changes to the healthcare system. The candidates even shared personal stories about mental health to demonstrate preferences of funding based on lived experience with the current system.

The convening of youth party representatives shows optimism for the future of democracy in Canada. The event showcased youth engaged in politics as delegates displayed a way of communicating using dialogue that respectfully was able to represent the parties differing approaches to solving the same problems. With youth stepping away from the sidelines, the future of politics looks less polarized and more collaborative.

The views and opinions expressed in the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue blogs are those of the authors, and they do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University, SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue or any other affiliated institutions in any way.