Students making their choices in federal election
Innisdale Secondary School student council president Owen Quann and teacher Chris Valentine look over the Elections Canada map of Canada. Local high school students not old enough to actually cast a ballot on Oct. 19 are casting votes this week courtesy of Student Votes, which has more than 700,000 students in all 338 electoral districts from coast to coast to coast taking part. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER
As the federal election date looms on Oct. 19, hundreds of thousands of young 'voters' will be casting ballots for the party they think should form the next government.
Student Vote, a program by national charity Civix, has involved more than 7,500 schools in all 338 ridings across the country where young people will learn about the voting process and why it's important.
Civix's mission is to develop the skills and habits of citizenship among young Canadians, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Mazzucco.
"We're projecting over 700,000 students will take part," she said. "If they vote (during the Student Vote campaign), we hope they'll vote four years from now and in every other election they have the opportunity to."
Innisdale Secondary School student council president Owen Quann, 16, certainly intends to.
"It is important for (non-eligible voting) students to participate in the Student Vote program because it allows for them to learn political responsibility," he said. "A good citizen is an educated citizen. When the young voters are educated on political matters and the issues in our society, they can better contribute — meaning they can vote for who they feel would solve these issues — and/or become part of the political process themselves in running for office.
"Students participating in this program are more grateful for the democratic society that they live in," Quann added.
Teachers in some classes are addressing the election issues, he said.
"They're talking about the electoral process and how to vote and register, and distinguishing the differences between the parties. They're not giving us ideas about how to vote, but why it's important."
Quann conceded not all youth see the importance of learning more about politics, and eventually taking part in the process.
But he added that perhaps they would if they could cast a real ballot.
"Some students in my age demographic do not take an interest in the electoral process due to the fact that we are not eligible to vote, and some just don't care," he said. "But politics and government affect all citizens, regardless of age, under any circumstances.
"If the laws were different in a way that would allow for youth (16 and 17) to vote, I believe that those my age would take a much larger interest in both the electoral process and government as a whole," he said. "If these citizens are eligible to drive in our society, work in our society and contribute to our society, then why aren't we given the right to vote? Minors give a future to society. We should be given the right to vote for representatives who lead the present so we can better lead the future."
Mazzucco said federal parties keep an eye on the Student Vote results as the teens are the voters of the future.
"The parties are looking at the results and seeing what priorities students have because they will be eligible to vote in the years to come and it's a target group they should consider," she said, adding young Student Vote participants can sometimes encourage their parents to be more politically involved.
"Elections Canada did a study back in 2011 during the federal election and found about 20% of parents said their students positively impacted their decision to vote," Mazzucco said. "We hear stories from teachers saying parents voted for the first time — or actually changed who they were going to vote for — because of their child coming home and speaking about the issues and the candidates.
"So there is a lot of political discussion going on in homes because of this program."
Results from the Student Vote program — which has been taking place for 12 years — have sometimes been a little uncanny, Mazzucco added.
"In most elections, they tend to vote for the same governing party. As in the Alberta provincial election held in the spring, they tend to vote very close to the actual results," she said, adding the last federal election wasn't quite as respresentative. "In 2011, they elected a Conservative minority government with an NDP opposition."
To learn more about civix, visit www.civix.ca.