Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ontario Election: Young Voters Should Decide - But Will They?

Some interesting contrasts on print media websites today with regards to how this election might play out.
In the Sudbury Star, there's a letter to the editor suggesting that older voters hold the key to the outcome (see: "Sudbury letter: Older voters hold the key," John Lindsay, the Sudbury Star, June 7 2018). In the Toronto Star, there are a number of opinion pieces about young voters and why they have an interest in the election, including this piece from Vicky Mochama (see: "Youth vote is a force that should not be ignored," Vicky Mochama, the Toronto Star, June 6 2018).
And it's all true - for the first time, millennials represent the largest cohort of eligible voters. But time and time and time again, statistics show that a majority of young people just don't vote - which is why an older demographic (if a shrinking one) is perceived to hold the key to the outcome of the election.
From where I sit, there have been few elections as pivotal as today's with regards to the direction that a government might take as it contemplates how best to face the future. Few elections have presented such a stark choice. And yet, because of the dynamics of this election, I fully expect that voter turnout - particularly among millennials, will remain quite low. On the one hand, young voters have a lot at stake in the outcome (let's face it - a majority PC government will be a disaster for all Ontarians, but especially so for the young, as it may take a decade or two to put things back together again - we still haven't recovered from the damage done to the province by Mike Harris and his ill-informed lot - and Ford and this group of Cons will be a lot worse than Harris).
But on the other hand, younger voters have had little motivation to come out to vote. All of the parties have continued to campaign in largely traditional ways - offering fear instead of hope, presenting personalities rather than a compelling narrative. Elections Ontario has done little in the way of new outreach to young voters who might have little history with voting.
Even here in Sudbury, in the past we've seen all-candidates meetings at high schools and colleges - where students and young people could engage with candidates. But not this time.
Throw in an electoral system that just doesn't work, where every vote does not count, and the candidate you want to vote for often ends up being the candidate that you won't vote for because you feel compelled to use your vote to stop the other guy - well, it's almost like young people have been told that they are not a priority. That they don't matter.
So I for one can't blame them if they don't show up to cast their ballots. But at the same time, I sure hope they do - because the stakes are just too high throughout the province today. This vote will matter to the future of Ontario's young people far more than it will to the older voters that are likely to shape the face of government tomorrow.
We've got to start doing things differently. And it starts with respect - respect for one's vote. And that means we have to acknowledge that our first-past-the-post system isn't working for us any more, and ditch it. Only then can we start creating trust among voters in our electoral systems, political institutions and restore it to government.
This good idea can't be held back for too much longer, yet there are those who will continue to fight the future due to their own vested interests - or more appropriately, their perception of their interests. Let's not continue to allow that for much longer. We can create the change we need - we just need to act.
And act we shall, I think. Greens were talking about electoral reform throughout this election (see: "Sudbury area's Green candidates push electoral reform," the Sudbury Star, June 6 2018). Let's hope that Liberals and New Democrats start talking about it afterwards. On second thought, let's not 'hope'. Let's make them. This is important.
(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

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