BY ETHAN KOMPF
Low voter turnout is the greatest menace to the democratic process. It is a citizen’s most important duty to vote, because voting is the only way citizens can have a say in their government and policy. The last federal election saw a voter turnout rate of only 61.1 per cent. This means that our government is not an accurate representation of what its electorate desires and 39 per cent of the population is not being represented.
The turnout rate of young adults was even worse. According to Elections Canada, only 38.8 per cent of people aged 18-24 voted, which has not changed in any significant way since 2004. When compared to people aged 65-74, who have a 75.1 per cent voter turnout rate, the difference is staggering.
There are many reasons youth cite for not voting. One is there is no one to vote for, because no one is addressing them directly. During a campaign, candidates spend the majority of their efforts trying to win over the population which is most likely to vote – that’s just sound strategy. Unfortunately, this means that most political issues which are raised are those which don’t affect younger generations.
Many youth believe that their vote is just a drop in the bucket and will not make a difference. According to Statistics Canada, however, there are more than 2.5 million people in Canada between the ages of 18-24. If all of those people voted they would easily make a difference.
Major issues concerning youth, such as the rising cost of post-secondary education, are largely overlooked. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the average debt load of post-secondary graduates is $27,000. This has gone up by $3,000 in the past three years and is expected to climb.
These are issues that the government could address – if they had any incentive to. Sadly they do not, when so little of their support comes from youth.
The Green Party is the only party which directly addresses student voters, promising free tuition by 2020 and the elimination of any student debt over $10,000. The NDP and Liberals both state that they will create more opportunities for 40,000 young Canadians, but this is not enough and is rarely touched upon in their political conversations.
Youth are not being addressed by politicians. The candidates know the statistics and will not waste their time trying to sway a population which will not support them. If youth show up and vote in this election, they will be voting for change, and the parties will have no choice but to address them in the future.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.