The Canadian federal election was officially called Wednesday, and some Canadian student associations are already focusing on improving uncertain youth voter turnout.
Luc Carels, vice-president external for Mount Royal University’s student association,SAMRU, is spearheading their Get Out The Vote campaign which encourages students to pledge to vote. The campaign was created by the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations and institutions across the country are participating.
“One of the main reasons we’re doing this – at SAMRU and I’m sure a lot of other institutions across the country – is that democracy is incredibly important and for that to work, more participation, more involvement is always better,” said Carels.
“With millennials now being the largest voting bloc in in Canada, the more participation we get from students is all the better.”
Young voters don’t turn out
According to Elections Canada, in 2015 there was a surge in youth voter turnout, when 57 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 turned-up to cast their ballot, a big increase from the 39 per cent who voted in 2011. In comparison, voter turnout for Canadians aged 65-74 was 80 per cent in 2015 and 75 per cent in 2011.
Carels, a policy studies student himself, said he hopes to see that high youth voter turnout continue in the upcoming election. Voting, Carels said, is an important opportunity for young people to shape their future.
David Taras, a political communications professor at Mount Royal, said he didn’t expect the upswing in young voter turnout to continue. According to Taras, the 2015 election was an Instagram election – a selfie election. To young voters, he said, Trudeau was somewhat of a rockstar.
“I think there was a euphoria out there. There was a kind of Trudeau mania and young people sort of caught the wave and helped create the wave,” said Taras.
“Now, things are very different. Now, as you know, I think there’s a lot of disappointment. I think there’s a lot of disinterest. People just aren’t as engaged this time.”
What’s going on at MRU
Carels said he hopes the Get Out The Vote campaign will encourage students to be more aware and engaged in this year’s election.
MRU students can keep an eye out for a variety of events happening on campus this semester. Carels said he hopes to have an all candidates forum in addition to pledge events.
The first event is planned for September 18. An iced cream for a pledge event which will take place on East Gate providing the weather permits.
Taras said political involvement on social media and other online platforms can sometimes feel like enough to people. While that is important, he said, it does not equate a vote. In the hierarchy of election involvement Taras said that voting was at the very top.
“I think the statistics are that over people over 55 will probably represent a good 40 to 50 per cent of voters, if young people don’t turn out, and that that becomes a very different election. The issues become different,” said Taras.
“So the absence of young people has a consequence because because it gives that much weight to older voters who tend to be more conservative.”
The Federal election takes place on October 21.