When the last federal election took place in May, 2011, I had turned 18 only three months prior and knew nothing about politics. I voted, because it was something I was allowed to do, but I barely knew who the party leaders were, let alone what their platforms espoused.
This year, before I took to advanced polling over the Thanksgiving long weekend, I did my research. I found online resources that helped educate me on the important issues, I looked at comparisons of party platforms, I took quizzes that showed how my beliefs aligned with those of the various parties. This was not the result of a sudden fascination and interest in politics; it was because of the spotlight that this election has placed on youth voting.
The people in the 18 to 24 demographic are the future of the province. Five, 10, 15 years down the road, we will be teachers, parents and business people. We have the most to gain and the most to lose. However, the turnout of youth voters has been famously low year after election year with only a small percentage of eligible youth showing up to vote compared to other demographics. Because of this, in past years, the youth vote was not targeted.
As Rick Mercer said in one of his trademark rants before the 2011 election, “All the major parties have well-publicized plans to target the ethnic vote, the women’s vote, the blue-collar vote, the corporate vote. […] Everyone is targeted, except for one group — the youth vote.” The youth are not targeted because we simply aren’t voting. The millions of youth in Canada choosing not to vote is not seen by the leaders of this country’s political parties as a statement; it is seen as further incentive to ignore the youth and continue targeting the “real adults.”
This year, however, more and more people have been giving encouragement to youth voters. Justin Trudeau, in particular, has been a champion of the youth vote. The leader of the liberal party has spoken out numerous times about how important it is for Canada’s youth to get out and vote in this election. In an interview with the Toronto Star editorial board, he said, “If young people get out and vote, then all politicians, whether or not they get voted for by young people, will realize that you can’t keep ignoring young people because they don’t vote.”
It’s not just the politicians who are promoting youth voting for the 2015 federal election, multiple campaigns have also been launched to motivate youth voters. For example, in Vancouver, local musicians and bands have come together for “Turn Up YVR.” On Oct. 10, “bus-based concerts” were performed to more than 250 young people who signed up to go to advanced polls. Buses were rented and local artists such as Dan Mangan, Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason, Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother, and The Boom Booms, were enlisted to perform as the buses shuttled voters to their polling station.
In 2011, for the 41st federal general election, 38.8 per cent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds voted. Those that chose not to cast a ballot, however, still voted. In fact, they gave a double vote to someone who did, and who may have disagreed with them.
In an interview with CBC last week, Rick Mercer said: “One of these days it’s going to happen and it will change the country. If young people show up to vote, it will change everything.”
Let’s make it happen.