BY PAUL BOREHAM
Youth rule supreme in the eyes of fashion designers, film and music executives and mobile phone companies, because youth come out and buy what they have to offer. Politicians, on the other hand, have hung them out to dry. Young people don’t vote in large numbers.
Life would be a lot better for them if they did, said Michael Dale, a professor in the School of Liberal Arts at Conestoga’s Doon campus.
“I guarantee you that if 80 per cent of your demographic had voted in the last five or six elections, so that there was a pattern, you’d be paying half or a third of the tuition you are now.
“And what’s the big complaint from kids at school? ‘I’m going to come out of here so far in debt, I’m never going to see daylight,’” Dale said.
Other concerns for students are the high costs of rental property, low wages and transition from school to the workplace.
“One of the things they should be upset about is how we pay the highest wireless charges in the world. All of you are connected, you pay huge amounts of money and why?”
The cost of digital access to music online was also cited by Dale.
Despite these issues, Statistics Canada data shows only 38.8 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds turned up at the last federal election’s polls. The reasons are many, Dale said.
With that in mind, and with the upcoming federal election on the doorstep, a survey of 100 students was taken at the Doon campus. Locations near the cafeteria, by the pond and in the newly-opened library were chosen. Students were asked if they were going to vote on Oct. 19. They were also given a chance to explain their decision, and some even volunteered who they were (or were not) voting for.
The result is a pleasant surprise. The number of students voting met Dale’s 80 per cent figure. Of the 20 who said “no,” they were either too busy with school and life, or they did not care about politics – or politicians.
“It’s like picking the lesser of the evils because you don’t know who’s going to keep their promises,” said Kourtney Glass, a design foundations student.
Kayla Snow, a first-year protection/security and investigation student, became quite animated when explaining her decision. “It’s either crap, crappier, crappiest, or craptastic! Regardless of who you vote for, it’s going to be crap!”
Many felt their vote would not make a difference.
Those who answered “yes” made their case.
Sarah Spencer and Stacey Weatherbee, both in the paralegal program, were eager to speak. Of course they were voting, they both echoed.
“The services we receive, the benefits, the obligations of being a Canadian are all affected by who is running the government,” said Spencer.
“I’m looking more at how it’s going to affect Canada on the international stage,” said Weatherbee. “Who’s going to best represent us, with integrity? That’s a very important concern to me in this election.”
They admitted one was a Conservative supporter, the other NDP, and laughed, saying they got along nonetheless.
Chris Tidman, a second-year social service worker student, explained why he votes: “So I have some control over my own destiny. If you don’t vote, you can’t gripe because you weren’t part of the process.”
“It’s one of my rights as a citizen,” said Tyler Hill, a third-year marketing student. “It’s a right a lot of people don’t have, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
On a lighter note, one young woman said, “Of course I’m going to vote,” adding that her mother always let her know the name of the candidate she was to put her X beside.
Several expressed their displeasure with the Conservatives and want them kicked out; while some business students are keen on them staying put. Justin Trudeau, the young Liberal leader, has impressed others.
But many of those who are voting still have not chosen which party they are supporting.
Dale said it is easy to make an informed decision. “Virtually all the parties have a Facebook page. They are tweeting. It’s on the TV. They’re talking about it on the news,” and so there is no excuse.
The cbc.ca/news website has an array of tools to help voters choose a party. Vote Compass includes an issue-related questionnaire that, when completed, aligns the voter with a party. News stories on the website highlight hot-topic issues, showing each party’s stance. Pledge to Vote is a public declaration of one’s intention to vote and includes an interactive map with the voter’s name and reasons for voting. Friends can be challenged to do the same through social media links on the page.
In addition, the Elections Canada website (elections.ca) has ample information on where and when to vote on Oct. 19, with a link for student concerns.