[Toronto Star] More policies, less opponent attacks: Youth just shy of voting age share what they’d like to see change in the next election
They aren’t of legal age yet but many among the next generation of voters are well-informed and would be eager to cast a ballot if they could.
At John Fraser Secondary School in Mississauga, they’re getting a chance to practise. The school’s library and a Grade 12 politics class teamed up to register with Student Vote, an initiative from non-partisan charity CIVIX, supported by Elections Canada and other partners, that provides schools with authentic election materials, including boxes, screens and ballots with the actual local candidates and parties listed, so they can hold a mock election.”
It’s all part of an effort to establish a practice of voting so kids may grow up to exercise their right in real life once they’re 18.
We asked Grade 12 students at the school who are just a year away from the legal voting age what they’d like to see changed about politics, campaigns and elections by the time they’re ready to vote in the next federal election.
Several said they’d like to see more of a focus on policies than leaders attacking each other, while others said they wish the legal voting age was lower. Here are some of the other thoughts they shared.
Aisha Imana, 17
Making the voting age 16 years old, I think that’s such a good step forward in the right direction to emphasize and have that representation of younger people being able to voice their opinion. I feel like when you’re 18, there’s always that gap between people who vote and don’t vote. If you start off by not voting, you kind of go down that line of continuing not to vote. But if you do cast your first vote, then you’re more likely to vote.
In high school, it’s a very sensitive age where we do have civics class, which is mandatory in Grade 10, and then you have those law, politics or history courses that teach you different things in the political realm. If the age were to be changed to 16, we would have more student voices in the polls. You’re still learning and it’s fresh in your mind because you’re learning those things in the school environment that you’ll be able to make more educated votes. It would just be more informed voting rather than when you’re 18, sometimes people aren’t taking as many political courses in university. In high school, just with Student Vote, this is something that’s reaching the whole school.
Because of social media, more youth know about these elections, so why aren’t we at the voting polls? Why aren’t we able to voice our opinions?
I know it’s cheesy but we are the future. We’re just as much impacted by older people who live in Canada. We care about these things, like climate change and OSAP, all these different things that directly impact us not just as students but also as individuals and functioning members of the Canadian society.
I would also like to see more minority groups represented in the candidates. We always have the trend of white male. Canada is such a multicultural and diverse country. We accept and we welcome all these different people but we’re not seeing that representation. We’re not seeing those people that look like us who are people of colour, people from different backgrounds, different religions, anything. All of our prime ministers have been white. It would be good to get a fresh perspective.
Maham Wyne, 17
I want to see more emphasis on education and funding to education. That’s our biggest thing for that time period. I want to see easier methods for paying off student debt or just making university cheaper because people go into debt. I know we already have OSAP, but other methods as well.
It’s just frustrating for people like us when we’re 17, which is one year away from being able to vote but now we have to wait another four years. Four years from now, we’ll be in our third year of university. Some people finish university by the time they’re in their fourth year. By then education might not even be that big of a deal but then those three years we spend with the prime minister at that time, what if we don’t agree with them and their plan for education. Lowering the age would help a lot.
Ron Mishra, 17
I wish politicians focused more on the substance of their policies rather than just merely attack the opponent. We Canadians know that this is a tight competition, but we’re not getting much out of it.
This might be a consequence of the social media age, but our youth don’t really have long attention spans. I feel that there should be more resources given to expand on these policies and plans in a way that is more directly accessible, like through social media, rather than just it being very long campaign advertisements just being like “Oh, I don’t like this person.”
I wish politics transcended beyond parties. It’s more than just the votes. It’s how it might affect Canadians, that’s what the focus should be. Peace all around.
Monica Suh, 16
Electoral reform, so we wouldn’t have to do first-past-the-post. That’s a pretty big issue because we have people who don’t want to really break that Liberal/Conservative dichotomy because they’re scared that if they vote for the NDP or the Green Party, they’re kind of failing with their vote. They’re essentially giving a vote to the party that they don’t want to be elected. I don’t think that’s representative of what people want. That’s something I would like to see changed.
Juhi Mattekatt, 17
Universal pharmacare. I think for a lot of people, insurance doesn’t really cover a lot of their drug costs. It would be a great addition to our health care plan if we could add a little more of drug coverage to that.
Abdullah Sahi, 17
For the next election I would like leaders to express their policies in a neutral way so that people are not influenced by what the leaders say but more by what they’re going to do. Leaders are trying to attack the other leaders’ character rather than discussing solid policy.
Muhammad Hassan, 17
I would like to see in the future that leaders don’t fight so much amongst themselves. They focus more on the people, their needs and delivering to them.
Maisha Alam, 17
I think Indigenous issues is a big thing. I feel like there’s not enough representation for it. Not enough has been done. It’s something that we’re learning about in school so I think more kids are becoming more aware of these issues and I think they’d be happier to see them represented well throughout the different political parties.
In terms of making voting easier or better for us, I think they should start to target teenagers through social media instead of promoting propaganda or bashing other or certain candidates. Maybe just telling us to vote to actually make a difference so that we know that we have a chance to actually make a difference. And also I know that by putting places to vote on campuses, the youth voting rates have gone up a lot higher so I think that’s something, maybe even put them at high schools because there’s a lot of kids who are of voting age.
Bhavya Tandon, 17
I’d like to see some positive change around climate change and energy efficiency. I’d like to see politicians focus on issues that matter to me, like education, climate change, health care and Indigenous affairs, which are issues that matter to most young people. I think they can definitely focus more on Indigenous affairs and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. They should really focus on getting those done. Every vote matters so I wish I could vote and dedicate my vote to a party that I believe will create a nicer future for me.