Federal Election

Student organizes candidates’ event in home riding

U of O student Kelsea Walsh wants to help voters make an informed choice. Creative Commons

When it comes to understanding our political system, many students look to their parents for guidance. But sometimes, it’s the other way around.

Kelsea Walsh, a fourth-year political science student at the University of Ottawa, got a surprising nudge into the the world of voter education.

“I had my mom (a PhD) and a couple of her friends ask me, ‘what’s going on in federal politics?’” Walsh said.

The problem was, said Walsh, that despite being very knowledgeable, “they don’t feel connected enough to federal politics to make their own voting decisions.”

Then she had an idea. “I thought why don’t I host an all candidate event,” said Walsh.

The event, Vote Smart, which will take place Sept. 16-17 in her hometown of Aurora, will feature candidates from the local ridings, Aurora-Newmarket and Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, and is designed to give voters useful information to make an informed decision on Oct. 19.

The event will allow local candidates to communicate their positions to potential voters, but there are some ground rules.

“It’s not meant to be a debate,” said Walsh, “I really want to get to the point, I’m cutting out blame, statistics, and party taglines.”

Walsh is also including situational questions in the event, in an attempt to avoid planned responses.

If you can’t make it out to Aurora —don’t worry— planning the event has helped Walsh pick up a few things to share. “I’ve been doing a lot of research on youth voting since starting Vote Smart,” she said.

Choosing a candidate, for example, is a struggle for many potential voters.

Walsh’s event looks to introduce voters to their candidates, but also to party values they follow. “I really believe that voting involves knowing your candidate, but also knowing that their party’s values and priorities guide the candidate,” said Walsh.

It’s also a personal consideration, she said. “Pick a party that suits your needs,” she said. “It’s not a family decision, it’s a lifestyle decision, a values decision… what do you want Canada to look like?”

Why go through the effort?

“Voting is your voice,” said Walsh. “It’s a fundamental underpinning of our democracy.”

As for Canada’s youth voting problem, Walsh says Ilona Dougherty, executive director of Apathy is Boring, gave the best answer. “Because we don’t ask them to.”

Walsh says that not enough politicians are actively encouraging youth to go out and vote. “Although many third party groups are doing good work (to encourage voting), it’s an indirect message,” she said.

Many people have bemoaned Canada’s youth voting problem, but it seems the problem can extend to anyone who doesn’t feel connected to our democracy. Walsh says the solution is taking the time to get a little information, so when you vote, you vote smart.