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April 14, 2011

Canada's youth: Your future in your hands, vote out Harper on May 2nd

The Canadian Charger

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70% of Canada's population voted in 1993. Then in 2000 the rate fell to 64%, in 2004 to 61%, rising to 65% in 2006 and then falling to 59% in 2008. The decline was due almost entirely to the low turnout rate of those from 18 through 24. Among youth, 37% voted in 2004, rising to 44% in 2006 and then falling back to 37% again in 2008. The difference between the rate of youth voting and that of the general population is striking.

Canada is not alone in having a weak youth voter turnout.  The same phenomenon can be found in Western Europe.  A 1999 study by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance found young people’s rate to be 10% below that of the general population. 

However the Canadian gap is even wider.

For the Left, this absent youth vote is particularly worrying. An Ekos survey from last year examined voter preferences overall and just for people from 18 through 24.  The results for people overall were as follows: Conservatives 32%, Liberals 29%, NDP 14%, Greens 11%, Bloc 10%, and others 3%. 

By contrast the youth preferences were Tories 19%, Liberals 24%, NPD 18%, Greens 22%, Bloc 14%, and others 3%.  Clearly, if youth voted at the same rate as other Canadians the complexion of the last Parliament would have been very different.  And studies suggest that young people who do not vote now will not vote as they get older. 

How can this situation be changed?  How can young potential voters be engaged?

Elections need to be made highly relevant to them. 

Liberals’ proposal of $1,000 to $1,500 a year for college and university students may be a step in that direction, but there are ambiguities.  Tuition rate increases could eat up such grants.  A more radical policy–free higher education, perhaps with some strings attached such as a higher tax rate after graduation–might be more appealing. 

Another angle could focus on differences between the NDP on the one hand and the Liberals and Conservatives on the other on the question of extending the troop deployment in Afghanistan.  (The Greens’ position on this issue is more ambiguous.)  Consider this declaration: “Having trouble finding a decent job when you get out of school?  Tories and Liberals have the answer for you–Afghanistan forever. Visit scenic Kabul.” 

Parties could run younger candidates, perhaps some with star power.  The young Trudeau was an example.  One possibility would be to run an anti-war Afghanistan veteran.  If parties could engage young entertainers with star power throughout a campaign, that might be a draw.  The NDP showcased the Barenaked Ladies, but not throughout the full campaign.

Part of non-voting is simply a matter of not opting in.

Younger people also do not join churches at the same rate as other Canadians.

However, some of the difference is a matter of apathy.  Apathy is a thin veneer covering hostility.  In the world of politics, it is epitomized in such comments as “They’re all crooks,” and “They never keep their word.” 

How does one deal with apathy?  Uncover the hostility and focus it.  The suggested Afghan diatribe is an illustration.

If one wants to play “clean” and ignore the attack ad approach, parties might make electoral campaigns more recreational, with parties during the campaign and at the end, regardless of outcome.

But at the end the message must reach the youth: YOUR future is in YOUR hands. Voting is a proactive approach in shaping that future. So vote on May 2nd and vote out Harper, here are 20 reasons to vote him out:

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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