Today’s high school and university graduates are facing unprecedented challenges—high unemployment rates, crippling student debt, an inflated housing market, and a social safety net that no longer offers the protection that it was intended to provide.
As students, we have a say in our representation in the House of Commons, which controls and manages many of these important issues, yet in 2011 voter turnout in the 18-24 age category was less than 39 per cent. Young people are growing ever more cynical and apathetic, and we can’t blame them. What they don’t know, however, is that change starts with us.
Young people often think that their vote won’t make a difference, but a study done by the University of Ottawa’s Kevin Page shows that if just 60 per cent of young people voted in the 2011 election, the Stephen Harper Conservatives would not have walked away with a majority government. If we, as young voters, made a commitment to become engaged and informed, to read up on policies and platforms and to show up and be heard on Election Day, we would change the course of this election, and the future of our country.
That being said, just because we are capable, that doesn’t mean that this will be easy. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has made it harder for young people to vote by introducing their “Fair Elections Act”, which has created more hoops that aboriginals, seniors, members of the homeless com- munity, and young people now need to jump through in order to vote. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are prepared as well as educated; start by registering early to vote.
Another issue we face as young voters, is not knowing how or where to become involved in politics; it is easy to feel like an outsider in political groups, or to feel that we are uninformed or not taken seriously. There are many ways you can get involved in and educated about politics right here on campus.
The best thing you can do is connect with the campus clubs representing the different political parties, which offer many opportunities to hear various points of view, meet local candidates, and get involved with election campaigns.
Our club, the University of Ottawa Young Liberals, offers students a positive and informative environment in which to learn about the Liberal platform, as well as many opportunities to prove to local candidates that students can be an important part of a campaign team. Each weekend, we have a great time getting together with like-minded people, and talking to voters across the city about the issues that are important to them. We would love to invite you to come out and meet our team and maybe even get involved in a campaign around Ottawa; it’s one of the most fun, rewarding and impactful things you can do as a student in the Nation’s Capital.
If you are interested in joining our club, look us up on Facebook or email us at Ottawa@campus.oyl.org.
—Kevin Den Heijer, Vice President, University of Ottawa Young Liberals