“Who are you voting for?” — Student Vote at Town Centre Private High School

Students at Town Centre Private High School in Markham, Ontario are participating in the 2015 federal Student Vote. One student sent us a blog to recap their experience with the program so far: 

With the 42nd federal election on October 19th, 2015, Canada is making its mark in history with the possibility of a new prime minister! Elections and voting are important, for they epitomize a civic duty and the chance for citizens to voice their opinion. Even though students who are under the voting age can’t vote yet, there is a student vote that runs alongside the federal elections occurring in Canada, providing young Canadians the chance to express their thoughts in a mock election debate.

It all started last year in Town Centre Private High School when Mr. Armstrong wanted students to be more engaged in the 2015 election. Originally, it was only supposed to be a student vote, but he realized that students would need to be informed prior to the voting. The current events/elections club, led by Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Murad — along with the help of Mr. Fisher, Ms. Krishna, and Ms. Galati and Ms. Butler — organized the event.

The mock election debate took place on October 2nd and had four talented high school students who each volunteered to represent his respective party: Alex Forsythe (Green Party), Matthew Bredschneider (Liberal Party), Joshua Vetere (Conservative Party) and Adam Sapa (New Democratic Party). The mock debaters had been researching for almost, if not an entire month. They would meet every Friday to prepare by learning etiquette for debates, discussing debate procedures, watching actual debates, and practicing with pre-mock debates. Topics of interest included the Senate Abolishment, and Aboriginal Schooling and Security within Canada.

I had the privilege of speaking with the candidates about their experience in the debate. “It was a little nerve-wracking,” said Alex, “especially since I’ve never had a particularly strong political stance.”

He continued, “Despite being nervous, I still managed to portray my opinions and feel like I made quite an impact, considering how I was representing the least popular party of the four but was still received pretty well.”

When asking the debaters what they learned from the whole event, Joshua revealed that “politics isn’t about stating the facts. It’s about informing voters on why they should vote for your party. No matter what you say, the other parties will twist your words, so a good skill to have is defending and shooting others’ statements right back at them and you have to overwhelm them and put them on the defensive.”

To further promote the mock election debate throughout the school, we invited Markham-Thornhill candidates, Joshua Russell (Green), John Easow (Conservative) and John McCallum (Liberal). To say that I was surprised was an understatement! They were such normal people but you could tell that they had a passion for their respective political parties. Joshua Russell, for example, was only 21 and was already running for the House of Commons. His ambition simply goes to prove that anyone can get involved in the political process.

What I liked most about the event was the genuine surprise I felt when I heard the different arguments from the mock debaters and how professional they all sounded. Neither of them spoke over the other, and there was a fair chance for all representatives to speak. Matthew and Adam were very articulate and passionate when they supported (or rebutted) ideas; they used cunning words, their quick wit and most of all, their stellar timing to their advantage. I was very impressed.

For the voting, we will be setting up voting booths on October 16th and letting all students be called down from class. They will vote for a candidate of Markham-Thornhill, and the results will be tallied and compared to the rest of Canada to see how our riding actually voted. With this process, a lot more students will be more familiar with the voting process before they can place votes, encouraging them to go out and exercise their right when they are of age.

By practicing the habits of voting now, students are broadening their horizons and are exploring an entire political world in which they are more involved than they think.

By Vanna Nguyen, Grade 12 student at Town Centre Private High School

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