Trudeau engages youth in politics

Yesterday afternoon, Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP for Papineau, Quebec, spoke to students on the topic of political engagement at the Student Life Centre at the University of Waterloo.

“We have now, in the 21st century, an opportunity to rethink a lot of the habits and assumptions that got us here,” said Trudeau.

In viewing this period of history as a time of transition, Trudeau noted that the role of Canadians, particularly youth, involves “questioning some of those basic assumptions that we make without realizing [it].”

He argued that analyzing the root problems for poor voter turn-out in the last few federal elections is the key to finding solutions that encourages political engagement among Canadians.

“[Canadians] don’t feel that they have the capacity to shape, alter [and] contribute to public discourse, and I think that’s the big issue,” said Trudeau.

He argued that the current state of the nation’s government – in which parties are fixated on short-term issues and maintaining their place of power – has resulted in feelings of cynicism among citizens.

“We have to convince people that politics can be a force of good, politics can be a force of change, politics can be about vision and responsibility,” said Trudeau.

“Politics needs to be about community building and about services.”

According to Trudeau, shifting the focus to long-term concerns such as education, health, the environment and international relations will provide Canadians with the confidence they need in their government.

This shift, however, cannot happen without the participation of citizens.

Trudeau emphasized the importance of becoming engaged in politics while at university by joining campus political groups such as the Young Liberals.

“Once more and more young people simply make the effort to come out and vote, politicians will start responding to your major concerns and that will shape the way we reach out to youth.”

Trudeau used the example of the same-sex marriage motion to illustrate his point. After the issue was raised by youth it was addressed by politicians and Bill C-38 was passed in the House of Commons in 2005 legalizing same-sex marriages.

“Nothing ever seems to change in politics, but that’s exactly why it becomes so important to hear people combat politics, questioning politicians in their real role and demanding answers.”