The federal election is fast approaching and the student vote matters more than ever before
Voter turnout among Canada’s youth, defined as those aged 18-24, is always a pressing issue for policymakers. In 2019, youth voter turnout was down by about 3 per cent compared to the previous election.
A decline in this number is not a positive trend. It is important that voters of all age groups feel represented by their government. It is extremely worrying then that students will be unable to vote on campus come this election.
It would be easy to dismiss young people as uncaring in matters of politics.
The perception still exists that many students are too busy playing beer pong to worry about the intricacies of tax policy or national debt reduction. But people aged 18-34 will be this year’s largest voting bloc. This is the demographic every political party is scrambling to secure votes from, and it’s the one they must appeal to, at least somewhat, to form a government.
Many students are politically active. When they rally around a cause there is little anyone can do to stop them. But protests and demonstrations aside, the best way to get one’s voice heard in politics is to vote. After all, politicians must make and propose laws. And they lose or gain very little if not proposing a law will not affect them at the ballot box.
All this said it is saddening that students cannot vote in their home riding from their university campus. Voting should be, and in Canada is, designed to include everyone who wants to take part in the process. Polling stations are plentiful. Hours are fair.
Mail-in ballots are accepted. But voting this year will not be easy for those students who want to vote for their home candidate. Voting in this way on campus is only as old as 2015, so this is no departure from the long-running tradition.
But Elections Canada moved in the right direction to set up the program, so it makes sense that students would be upset that the program has been halted.
When people are upset, especially in politics, they often want to assign blame. The blame is often assigned to the political party they dislike. But in this case, there really isn’t much blame to go around.
Until very recently, universities had not even announced the extent of their in-person activities. If every class was remote, why would a voting station on campus make sense? It’s a fair question, and because universities were late to announce their intentions, preparations could not have been made in time. An election process is not to be set up half-heartedly, so ample time is needed.
The minority government was also a contributing factor. And no, that doesn’t mean the Liberals are at fault. Minority governments can call elections when they wish, so Elections Canada woke to the news that election day was Sept. 20 exactly when the rest of us did. It’s perfectly within the rights of any minority government to do this.
So really, there’s not much blame to throw around for no voting on campus this fall. It’s simply a product of circumstance.
If you do need to vote in a home riding, you can via an early mail-in ballot or at an Elections Canada office. But please, vote, even if it takes that little bit of extra effort.