Apathy is Boring civic engagement group fights to encourage young voters

by | Oct 16, 2015 | Federal Election, News

Delia MacTaggart
News Reporter

Humber North campus’ walls are empty of partisan messages during a highly charged and polarising federal election campaign.

The Humber Students’ Federation is handing out Elections Canada pamphlets and promotional materials on school campuses. But Vice President of Student Affairs, Lakeshore Campus, Anna Bilan said it is “not our initiative.”

If HSF did want to take initiatives such as creating posters or events, it would have to be “approved by the [Elections Canada] communications department,” Bilan says.

While Seneca College has a site for students to get quick access for the need-to-know of voting, HSF will refer students directly to electionscanada.ca

If students at Humber, on or off campus, are confused as to where to vote, Bilan says they can search the Elections Canada site with their postal code and find the nearest office.

Apathy is Boring plays a more active role in getting millennials out to the polls.

The Montreal based civic engagement group, Apathy is Boring, for the past 10 years has been trying to encourage participation among young voters. This year they are partnered with Elections Canada to ensure they provide accurate information to voters. Research and Elections Program Coordinator for the group, Cavan Riordan, says political candidates consistently fail to reach out to younger voters.

“This is typical, this is not new. This has been going on for all the elections that I can remember. It basically works out to a vicious circle,” Riordan observed.

“Political parties are focused on getting the vote but it’s easier to change the mind of a voter rather than go and get a new voter… you have to convince them to vote and then vote for them. It’s easier and less expensive to focus on voters [who have voted before],” he said.

Riordan said “the national dialogue tends to be about middleclass families and seniors. We conduct activities and research. We’re active throughout the year. Our office is here in Montreal. We work across the country to our best ability. Right now we have groups of volunteers.”

“We get access to concerts and then provide volunteers with resources to go to the concerts and the festivals so they go out there armed with nonpartisan information about the election. During the show or prior to the show, in line for drinks or during coat check they strike up conversations with other peers,” he said.

Riordan could not comment on whether Canada’s first-past-the-post system needs to be reformed. Apathy is Boring strives to remain as non-partisan as possible. “We will never tell you who to vote for, only how,” he said.

Ryerson, the University of Toronto and York University and 37 other universities across the country were chosen by Elections Canada to host offices accepting special ballots. Citizens can vote well in advance of Election Day with special ballots.  Elections Canada offices were open until Oct. 13 and anyone could vote in them regardless of where they go to school or live. It was part of a pilot project, spokesperson Nathalie De Montigny said.

Elections Canada is looking into expanding the initiative after this year’s surge of more than one million voting in advanced polls. It’s investigating whether there were accessibility or technical issues at these offices, confirms De Montigny.

In a 2011 Elections Canada telephone survey of more than one thousand youths, 46 per cent of non-voters admitted that difficulty getting to the polling station influenced their decision.

According to a Nanos Reid telephone survey of more than one thousand randomly selected Canadians between Oct. 10 and Oct. 13 shows Mr. Trudeau is the preferred choice by more than 57 per cent.

In the last federal election, the Harper Government got a majority government with just over 39 percent of the popular vote. For a majority Government a party must win 170 seats out of 338 seats.