Canadian Federation of Students looks to arm voters with information

Anne-Marie Roy promotes voting among students through the Canadian Federation of Students’ “It’s no secret campaign. Photo: Spencer Van Dyk

The Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) “It’s no secret” campaign is in full swing during this election period hoping to encourage students to vote.

Restrictions due to the passing of the Fair Elections Act in 2014 have made it more difficult for a number of students to vote.

“(The ‘It’s no secret’ campaign) is to get students educated about post-secondary education issues, so that when they’re listening to candidates and political platforms, they’re familiar with the context of what’s going on and what to look for,” said Anne-Marie Roy, deputy chair of the CFS.

The Fair Elections Act states the Chief Electoral Officer is no longer charged with promoting the elections and encouraging voter turnout, which was at 38.8 per cent for the youth vote, measured as people aged 18–24, in the 2008 federal elections.

Also, the Act makes it more difficult for people to vote if their address is not up to date, as is often the case with students.

Roy said the “It’s no secret” campaign was started in response to the electoral reforms, specifically to drive youth voter turnout. She added that one of the goals of the campaign is to “get politicians to talk about our issues,” but also to encourage students to vote.

“We feel like this year it’s incredibly important for us to be on campuses, and also to do some outreach for the few campuses that are going to do advance polling,” she said.

The CFS is not the only organization campaigning to increase voter turnout. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) launched its “Get out the Vote” campaign on Sept. 1, in collaboration with 23 student associations from across the country.

“The object of this campaign is to persuade students to vote and ensure their voices are heard,” said Erik Queenen, board chair for CASA, in a release. “It’s time students step up and determine how politics unfold in Canada.”

Vote Savvy is also trying to bolster the youth vote by partnering with universities, colleges, and other organizations to “promote political literacy.”

The organization hosts surveys to determine which political issues matter to students, and to demonstrate which parties are most aligned on those issues.

Roy said the government’s budget is a statement of its priorities, and that students should make every effort to be put on the agenda. She said tuition fees have tripled since the 1990s, that current students have the highest student debt in history, and that the CFS is seeking solutions from politicians.

“It’s been a little bit disappointing so far, we did hear a little bit from the Greens, and the Conservatives are talking about the same old thing: tax credits that we find are a little bit inefficient,” she said.

She added that CFS is participating in a Day of Action in collaboration with the Canadian Labour Congress, an organization representing Canada’s unions, which will coincide with campus advanced polls, which will be open on 39 college and university campuses from Oct. 5-8.