OPINION: Young voters have power in upcoming federal election, but only if they turn up

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Opinion

Jared Dodds

I remember walking into my old elementary school gym in Mississauga the year I turned 18 about five years ago. Bright lights, linoleum floors, a slight smell of rubber reminded me of eight years filled with games of tag and dodgeball.

This trip, however, was not significant because of childhood memories.
It was important because it was the first time I got to vote.

I grew up being reminded every election about the importance of voting, and the countless lives that were lost across multiple conflicts to secure my right to participate in democracy. This made me proud to fulfill my civic duty when the time came to cast my first ballot.

So, imagine my shock when I learned that many of my generation did not vote, they had no plans to ever do so

Youth engagement in politics has ebbed and flowed over the years, with Elections Canada estimating that in 2011 only 39 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 eligible to vote did so.

Elections Canada said the number rose to 51 per cent of young voters in the 2015 federal election, which may have sealed the historic win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

However, as we approach another battle for 24 Sussex Drive this October, young people’s apathy towards the political process has begun to rise.

It seems as if every political conversation I have with other Millennials is greeted with a chorus of “I don’t know,” or worse, “I don’t care.”

Not only do people seem uninformed, they seem uninterested, and that is a dangerous proposition.

When young people band together, they become a massive influence in many situations. One only needs to look at the youth mobilization following the Parkland school shooting or the influx of progressive members of Congress in the United States championed by young people.

This is evidence that whatever party can inspire young people to vote will increase their chances of winning this crucial election.

And believe me, this election is crucial.

Whatever you think about President Donald Trump, it must be said he has displayed a volatile relationship between the United States and its various trade partners.

Canada will need a leader who can stand toe-to-toe and fight for the things Canadians find important, and the leaders of the various political parties would be wise to find a way to engage the young people of this country and convey their message.

There is some debate as to what young people are passionate about in the political arena. Consider Trudeau’s success in his crusade to legalize marijuana, which likely drove a much more impressive turnout from the Millennial vote last election.

Historically issues such as climate change are far more important to young people than the rest of the voting population, leading some to speculate that it will be a hot button issue in the debates and on the campaign trail in the upcoming election.

I do not know what the focus of my generation will be when we get to the next federal election in October. But I do know that whoever can inspire them to participate will have a significant advantage.