Student Vote at Miles Macdonell Collegiate
Students at Miles Macdonell Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba are participating in the 2015 federal Student Vote. One student sent us a blog to recap their Student Vote Day.
On Thursday October 15 at 8:30 A.M., the polls opened. The student polls at Miles Macdonell Collegiate that is. Throughout the day, over five-hundred students, 61% of the student population at Miles Mac, cast their votes for the Member of Parliament from Elmwood-Transcona. While the votes did not count in the general election, everything else was identical to the real thing.
In the 2011 federal election, less than 40% of citizens aged 18-24 took part in the single most important function that makes democracy go round. This means 60% of people in this demographic were not represented in our federal government. Usually, when 60% of a demographic are left unrepresented, we would call it undemocratic, but in our case, this was a free choice. I decided to ask students why they think voter turnout among young people was so low.
“I think young people don’t vote because they are not as interested. They are not thinking of money or how to make ends meet and stuff like that until they are older.”
Another student added, “I think that the young people do not vote as much because it is relatively harder to reach out to them. Most of the time, the young generation is not aware of the status of our economy and the problems that we have. News does not appeal to them either, unless it is in a form of social media. Saying that the young people do not care about the country would not be 100% accurate. I just think that we are less exposed to politics than the older generation. Also, we do not exactly realize how the government’s policies are affecting us.”
I believe that while we, the next generation, may realize the importance of voting, we usually do not hold as strong a stance on political matters and our eagerness to make changes for our future is stalled by indecisiveness.
Grade 11 student, Kathryn Flight, shares, “I do have a lot of difficulties making decisions but this is one of those things that you need to do or you might end up with a government that does not work at all for the country.”
Participating in an organized event like the Student Vote parallel election prepares us for the sorts of decisions we will eventually have to make. It forces us, essentially, to tune into politics and figure out what is going on, to practice making a decision that will have impact on the path our country takes.
Mr. Gordon Fritzsche, one of the teachers involved in organizing the event, agrees and adds, “The hope is that students will not feel intimidated by the process when they are eligible to vote in the next election.”
Reasons for why students chose to vote for a particular candidate ranged from “I am voting Conservative because the only candidate on the ballot that I know is the Conservative one” to an in-depth analysis and explanation of this decision as the following from Grade 11 student Raya Reico, who shared “I voted for Liberal Party’s Andrea Richardson-Lipon. Some may argue that she is not the best MP for our riding but I tend to support the platform of the Liberal Party. I like how they value the middle class and their contributions to our economy because they really are the ones who strive in the work force and run the country. Majority of our population is from the middle class, so I totally agree with Justin Trudeau when he suggested that the middle class people should be given a tax cut. I think it would be reasonable if a great deal of our financial necessities and taxation came from the wealthiest 1% of our population. We are a community, after all. The Liberal Party has also made a promise of helping university students with their post-secondary educational debts. Thinking about the next few years, I believe that this policy greatly affects us. I value education. I have ambitions and dreams that I would like to fulfill. I want to succeed in my post-secondary education (possibly in the field of medical research) without having to think too much about my debts. Education is really important and we need a government who will be willing to support the young generation’s needs. We definitely need to invest in the future, and that’s us.”
Others echo her thoughts stating, “I voted for the Liberal Party because they want to lower taxes for the middle class and tax the rich more and I believe in that. That is important to me.”
We begin to realize how social status plays a role in our political decisions. Maria Nevoit, who immigrated from Ukraine less than two years ago, explains, “As an immigrant, I think voting NDP is most beneficial. They want to raise the minimum wage and that will help me and my family to start a new life in Canada.”
Others see things differently. “The Liberal Party would not consider us middle class. All the promises they are making would not apply to us. In order to be considered middle class, household income must be below 88,000 and since that is not the case, the Liberal Party offers me nothing better than the Conservatives.”
At the end of the day, no matter who we have cast our ballots for and what political views we share, it is important that we fulfill our responsibility in sustaining a democracy which represents all people, and the first step to doing that is to make sure our government represents you. Through the experience of Student Vote, political discussion has been sparked and as our thoughts are directed towards the future, we can look forward to higher voter turnout amongst young voters in future elections.
In the words of Raya Reico, “Voting is important because it is a way of voicing our opinions and taking control of our country, which we should all care about. Voting is a power. It’s a right – democracy in its simplest form.”
Marianna is a grade 11 International Baccalaureate student at Miles Macdonell Collegiate in Winnipeg