Politicians need to rethink the way they communicate and prioritize community involvement
I’m 19. Like many of my friends, this is the first federal election that I get to vote in. Also like most of my friends, I really can’t fully express how excited I am about this. But for many young people (18-35 years old), the prospect of voting in this election isn’t received so ardently.
Many young people are told throughout their entire childhood and adolescence that their opinion doesn’t matter, whether it be directly, indirectly, or both. And then when these people finally have the opportunity to vote, they continue to believe they don’t have a voice, or that their vote doesn’t matter.
This mindset tends to be more prevalent in those who have experienced poverty, discrimination, and who have been in positions where they feel the government has failed them or their family. It leads to a voter turnout that is disproportionately older, white, and wealthy compared to the overall population.
But things don’t have to be this way. How can we get more young people to the polls this year?
According to a Library of Parliament study on youth voter turnout in Canada, voter turnout of people aged 18-24 and 25-34 actually increased in the 2015 election from the previous election in 2011. However, these two cohorts both have the lowest voter turnout out of all other age groups at about 55 per cent each. The highest voter turnout was in the 65-74 age demographic, which saw a voter turnout approaching 80 per cent, closely followed by the 55-64 age demographic at about 75 per cent.
Almost half of all young people aren’t voting, and I don’t think it’s their fault. I believe it falls upon the political parties and each political candidate to make themselves stand out in a field that seems to have become synonymous with broken promises and lukewarm ideologies.
Ultimately, it comes down to the issues that you talk about and how you communicate them. The stance you have on an issue can only be as strong as your messaging. If you’re a political candidate in this election or plan to be in the near future, the only way you are going to win over young voters is if you have the courage to push for bold ideas.
Let’s start off with communication. I’ve learned from working on campaigns this summer that door-knocking is the most effective way to get people to vote for you, but between school, work, volunteering, self-care, trying to fit in dating or a social life, whatever it may be, many young people (myself included) just never seem to be home.
In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to spread a single message to a large group of people. Most young people are on some kind of social media. As a political candidate, it is crucial to demonstrate digital skills by updating social media regularly, whether it’s a website, Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram. Ideally, you would have all of these.
Repost relevant articles and share your take on them, post photos and videos of your constituents voicing their opinions, share your party’s stance on an issue and explain what the plan is, and of course, make sure people know your name, face, and voice.
Community involvement also seems to be important for young people. Personally, I’m more likely to vote for someone who is actively involved in their community throughout the years, and that you don’t just hear about come election time. This includes before their candidacy, as well as during their time in office. I understand this isn’t exactly helpful two months before the election, but authenticity is an extremely valuable quality that will resonate with people, especially young voters.
Messaging aside, let’s talk issues. From the plethora of today’s politically relevant topics, including but not limited to pharmacare, womxn’s and LGBTQ2S+ rights, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and affordable housing, one particular issue seems to universally bring young people together more than any of these: climate change action.
Young people are more likely than any other generation to agree that climate change is real and something has to be done about it. Climate change affects everyone in some way, and I truly believe this is why so many people are willing to get on board.
What we need are leaders who treat climate change like the crisis that it is so that people feel compelled to act on its urgency. What we need are leaders who are willing to implement bold change as soon as they are elected to office. What we need are leaders who will invest in our futures before it’s too late.
If we are going to put our faith in your hands, we have to trust that you care about making the world a suitable place to live for everyone as much as we do. f you cannot actively support and bring concrete change to address the issues that are important to the very people you commit to serving, you won’t last long in government.
Finally, I have a message for all my fellow young voters.
If you are unsure about whether you will be voting this year, allow me to ask you this: if you don’t use your voice, then who speaks for you? You may think your voice doesn’t matter, but if enough people like you think that, then your own interests and needs will never be recognized by the people meant to serve you.
Before you vote, read up on the platforms of each party and the candidates in your riding. Make sure you register to vote with Elections Canada as soon as possible so you get a voter information card with your poll location. And on election day, make the choice that represents you and your values the most.
Sam Yee is a second-year life sciences and Indigenous studies student at the University of Ottawa. All thoughts presented here are her own and not on behalf of any organization or club.