Local PC candidate creates political youth cabinet

The alleged indifference of youth to the political process is a topic that ironically ignites plenty of passion from all ages. Are the young voters of today merely ambassadors of a lazy generation? Do students not vote because politicians don’t care?

Kitchener-Conestoga Progressive Conservative (PC) candidate for member of provincial parliament (MPP) Michael Harris is aiming to dispel these stereotypically cited explanations.

On Sept.21, Harris announced a campaign promise at Conestoga College that pledged greater efforts to engage youth in the political process. The plan included such ambitions as a “Youth Cabinet” for ages 14-24 that would advise on student issues, a spring job fair and an “MPP For a Day” program, among other initiatives.

Harris recognized that the announcement came at a less than opportune time. “The last thing students want to see are politicians pandering to them during election time,” he acknowledged. “If we can constantly get in to see students and be in front of them throughout the four years, they’ll begin to realize this is a constant thing, not just during election time.”

From being high school president, to being involved in the students’ union during his post-secondary education, Harris maintained a commitment to the political process throughout his youth.

“I’ve benefited from the opportunity I was given as a young person to get involved and engaged,” he explained. “Given the opportunity to be elected, I definitely want to extend the same opportunity and definitely make an effort to reach out to our young people.”

Professor of political science at Laurier Jason Roy, described the plan as an “interesting initiative,” but seemed unsure as to whether it would generate real results.

Although he acknowledged that the type of people likely to be drawn to such projects would likely be those with a prior interest in politics, Roy noted that those involved could potentially inspire friends to do the same, leading to a “snowball effect.”

He commented, “I think part of the problem is whether young people see this as sort of … a veiled attempt at actually including them when in fact their input’s not really wanted.”

“Young people are perhaps frustrated with this idea that parties are trying to appeal to them and engage them, but not really in a meaningful way,” Roy continued.

Politicians often rely on venues such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate with youth, which is important, but insufficient.

However, while motives and depth may be debated, Harris’ ideas provide a unique attempt at combating the undeniable fact of low youth voter turnout.

Part of the problem, according to Roy, comes down to a question of resources. Political campaigns running on a stretched dollar may choose to “exclude young people” on the basis that strategic efforts could be used more effectively with an involved demographic of voters.

“It’s just this circular effect,” Roy explained. “They’re not being engaged, they’re not being motivated, they’re not being asked to join and participate, and therefore they’re not.”

Conversely, it may be that the problem does not lie with the traditional blame game of reasons for low voter turnout, but with tradition itself.

Roy concluded, “Our formal rules of politics … just simply may not move fast enough for a generation that’s used to having anything, and instantly.”