How Can Youth Be Engaged in Civic Happenings?

Thu, 18 Oct 2018

Serena Yang
Student Volunteer, SFU Public Square

Every time an election comes up, I always hear that the turnout rate for young voters is low. At the same time, I know that youth are the future. I know that there are brilliant young minds all around us, so where are the voters?

With the municipal election in the City of Vancouver coming up, I feel both excited and anxious. Excited at the prospect of new leadership, but anxious because of the uncertainty. How will the new mayor’s values and beliefs guide the city? What will happen to ongoing plans such as the Greenest City Action Plan, the Transportation 2040 Plan and the Healthy City Strategy? As important as the mayor is, city councillors and park board commissioners are important in the shaping of the city too. Are other voters, specifically young voters, feeling the same way?

When I bring up the election with my friends, many didn’t even know that it was happening until they saw lawn signs going up. Some of them joke that they are voting for the one with a "cool" name. How do I convince my peers that their vote is important?

This election features 158 candidates vying for 27 positions—that is a lot of profiles to go through! While I was researching, I found that no single candidate’s platform or party entirely resonated with me. Luckily, beyond electing a single mayor, I am able to select up to 26 other candidates who are reflective of my values, ensuring that the voices who can best speak for me have the best chance at getting elected. This is what I want my peers to understand; if we want Vancouver to work for young people like us, we need to cast votes for the candidates who will speak on behalf of us.

Are you a young person who is feeling overwhelmed or disengaged? Election day is in just a few days, but there is still time to do research. The City of Vancouver has put together a voting guide that gives each candidate the chance to articulate their main priorities. Start reading, and you’ll find people you agree with. It will take time, but I promise it’s worth it. This is our city too.

Your voice matters more than you think.

Being involved in shaping your city doesn’t just stop at your vote—there are many ways to stay engaged. Initiatives such as CityHive encourage and inspire youth to be actively involved in the planning, shaping and decision-making of their city. It is run by youth, for youth, to curate a sense of civic responsibility. Additionally, STAY Campaign is a digital campaign that highlights stories of individuals and what it takes for them to continue to call Vancouver their home—regardless of their socioeconomic class, profession, age or identity.