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Guest column: Let's make this OUR election

Written by Pablo Godoy
Monday, 17 August 2015

Over the next several weeks, much will be made of the political parties and leaders that are vying for voters’ support in the October 19th Federal Election. Debates will undoubtedly be heated, informative, and in some cases, misleading. And, much like in elections past, commentators will ask the perpetually unanswered question: why is it that a majority of young people don't vote?

After trying to articulate my own answer to this question, I realize that it is not mine to answer, because I vote. So to young people who are eligible to vote, who are part of the most educated yet most unemployed and indebted generation in Canadian history, who face the highest tuition fees and the casualization, out-sourcing, and elimination of good jobs in almost every career field, I ask "why NOT vote in this election?"

Statistics show that most of us do not vote. In fact, according to Elections Canada, only 38 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18-24 and 45 percent of voters between 25-30 voted in the last federal election. While these numbers are not surprising, they are alarming when we consider that Canada is currently governed  by a political party that the vast majority of Canadians did not vote for. Add to this the fact that voter turnout among youth has steadily decreased over the past twenty years, and it is easy to see why many Canadians believe that young people "don't care" about politics.

I would argue, however, that young people DO care about politics. Today's youth are burdened with increasing student debt loads, underfunded public transportation, the skyrocketing cost of tuition, and dwindling job prospects. That most of us do not vote is mainly a reflection of the failure of political parties and leaders to connect with us by committing to address the issues that affect us on a daily basis. And, in light of the recent changes to the Canada Elections Act – which suppress the voting rights of citizens who lack proper identification by eliminating "vouching" – there is clearly a desire among the current federal government to discourage young people from voting.

The powers that be would much rather have us concerned with pop culture, social media trends, and the latest celebrity scandal, because it allows them to pursue a political agenda that completely ignores and neglects youth. As a result of this agenda, we are the first generation of young people to be financially, environmentally, and socially "worse off" than our parents.

Despite this unfortunate scenario, we also know that we are young, capable, energetic, and creative citizens who have demonstrated that we can accomplish anything that we set our minds to. We have been taught that we should always demand more of ourselves and our peers, and it is time for us to demand more from our political leaders and parties.

This election, I urge you to get informed and vote for a candidate, party, or platform that you feel addresses your concerns. We have the collective power to fight for change, and we have been told that the future is ours. So let's make October 19th the day that we take back our future. Let's make the 2015 Federal Election OUR election by getting out to vote, and demanding that our needs be addressed.

Pablo Godoy is the project coordinator of Students Against Migrant Exploitation (S.A.M.E.), a national student-led organization that seeks to raise awareness of migrant worker exploitation in Canada, and motivate and inspire students to become active in social justice issues. You can follow S.A.M.E. on Twitter @TheSameGrouP and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/samegroup.

 

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