In the middle of a humdrum federal election campaign, we can thank groups of university students in various parts of the country for injecting a little excitement into the process with their “vote mobs,” inpromptu rallies aimed at encouraging their peers to join them in exercising our most cherished democratic right.
Some have credited satirist Rick Mercer for starting the movement, after a rant on his weekly CBC program challenged young Canadians to get out and make their voices heard on May 2.
Mercer makes a valid point. Young Canadians are vastly under-represented when it comes to voting in our elections. In the last federal vote, only 37 per cent of eligible voters between 18-24 came out to vote, far below the already-sad national average of 58.8 per cent. This is disheartening news, considering these young people are the future of this country, and decisions made by their government will impact their lives.
So why don’t young people vote? Perhaps they don’t feel that the politicians consider their priorities. There has certainly been little mention of the youth during this campaign, other than commitments to education such as the Liberal “learning passport.”
Maybe young people, like the rest of Canadians, are weary of elections and feel disengaged from a process that consistently brings us back to the polls.
Locally, our youth have demonstrated an interest in election campaigns. Parrsboro Regional High School, for example, has hosted candidates’ forums in the past two federal elections and they have proven to be highlights of the local campaigns. A forum for this campaign will be held at the school on April 28.
It is up to young people to demand more from their candidates and the political system, and these vote mobs are a fantastic start. Special polls should be set up at universities and colleges across the country to encourage more people to vote, including our own Nova Scotia Community College campuses.
Apathetic youth will become apathetic adults, and that is the last thing this country needs.