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2011 Election, Canadiana, Federal Politics

Solidifying the ‘Youth Vote’ starts with respect

Image Courtesy of the Canadian University Press

Stephen Harper can say that this was a needless election all he wants, but for millions of Canadians on the political left of the spectrum, the May 2 vote appears to be anything but. And if record-breaking advance polls turnout is any indication, the election in search of a story appears to have found its purpose in the form of challenging the Canadian political landscape itself.

Kinda meta, actually.

For those people who crave an election to be about “something,” they will likely still be disappointed. There is no overriding policy of theme to the campaign, so much as lately it has been about the increase in stated NDP support, and the Liberals desperate effort to gain traction. It’s like watching a bus get caught in quicksand: it’s a perfectly fine vehicle, in top shape, but it just can’t get going.

And to take this beach metaphor one step further, if the Liberal Big Red Bus is caught in the quicksand, Layton is blowing past on a dune-buggy. With six-pack abs. And a trail of women running after him like he’s saucy rooster Mick Jagger.

The problem? There are a few, and I’ll try and tackle the big one’s. For the record, this is not to slash the tires of Layton’s parade float, but just to be honest. Firstly, there are only a finite number of votes to be had, and they have to come from somewhere. And while it looks like Elizabeth May is ahead in her riding against Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn (which would be a Green milestone, to be fair), the Liberals will not be the only party that loses votes on account of the NDP surge. Many of those votes will come from Green voters who may feel that this is a horse they can back that may actually win – and in this election, not in the 48th General Election in 2024. And as someone who almost perpetually backs a losing candidate, this would be a tempting proposition for many fence-sitting Lefties weighing their options. And this is definitively a shame for the Green Party that is looking to build upon their 2008 momentum.

Secondly, and this is a problem for all parties, but none moreso than the NDP: attempting to solidify the youth vote is like herding cats. Hipster, potentially apathetic cats. And while I am insulted by ads that intend to encourage youth voting with crap like “Youth Voters: Walk Away from Facebook for 15 Minutes to Vote on May 2” (because all we bloody do is go on Facebook!), relying on youth as a large part of your core support is dangerous. I would much rather rely on a senior to vote for me than a teenager (all generalizations aside), because seniors have a stronger sense of the importance of voting, and more time on their hands typically.

So for Layton to be relying on the 18-34 demographic to win is risky business. If I was him, I would be spending more time speaking to issues they care about, something to get them motivated.

And not just education, but of course any youth-centred message can include that: but talk about urban issues and green infrastructure; building better public transportation and supporting the arts; the importance of local and healthy food; of civic engagement, political participation, and the importance of taking pride in where you live.

They would also do well to reinforce the notion that regardless of what Stephen Harper implies with his “He Didn’t Come Back For You” bullstuff, part of what makes any country great is a generation of young people experienced in the world and willing to take what they know about their country and share it with the rest of the world, and in turn be shaped by the world.

Maybe that’s what can solidify the NDP youth vote. Or any party’s youth vote, for that matter: assuming we care about more than just our education.

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About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen

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