All Posts Tagged With: "voting"
New report shows how we ‘get political’ between elections
A new national survey on the ways Canadians “get political” between elections contains good news and bad news about youth participation in democracy.
The good news is that, contrary to the stereotype, people aged 18 to 34 say they are more engaged in civic activities any other age group.
The bad news is that Canadians in general have become “lightweights” when it comes to political participation and that fewer young people bother to formally engage in the party system which, as the report points out, has the power to make the big decisions about how tax dollars are spent.
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Prof. Pettigrew on why he’d rather not vote
It’s democracy week, and that means that democracy enthusiasts have revved up for that heady mix of hand-wringing, admonishment, and cheerleading that characterizes all such events.
So forgive me for saying so, but the only thing I’m more sick of than being told how important it is that I vote, is voting. People like me tend to remain unheard at times like this, so I’m weighing in on behalf of those who don’t vote or would rather not vote, and responding to the well-meant clichés that we hear so much of these days.
Cliché 1. If you don’t vote, you don’t have any right to complain.
Nonsense. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees my right to complain and access to charter rights is not dependent on whether one voted or not.
Voter turnout (%) in campus elections from 2009 to 2012
Voters asked to choose Justin Bieber’s haircut in “erection”
A hacker at Western University has sabotaged the University Student Council elections by asking voters to pick Justin Bieber’s haircut, suggesting “Selena Gomez is wonderful” and by renaming the process the “University erection,” reports the Western Gazette. It was noticed on Valentine’s Day and online voting was shut down. The vote tallies weren’t hacked, say USC officials, but the two days of polls will be thrown out and a new vote is forthcoming, writes the London Free Press.
Campus voting booths nixed
Elections Ontario announced on Friday that 27 college campus polls will be moving off campus because of the college support staff strike, making it harder for students to vote on Oct. 6.
The College Student Alliance expressed disappointment with the decision. “Student associations have been working on their campuses to help mobilize the student vote and engage the youth in this provincial election,” writes Brian Costantini, president of the CSA. “Historically this has been a demographic that has not fully participated elections. ” Campus polls were supposed to help.
Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa decided to relocate the polls because of “recent labour issues at Ontario’s colleges and the resultant uncertainly regarding the use of college facilities,” he told the Toronto Star. However, he said students will be informed of other places where they may vote.
Urback: I didn’t vote for Jack, but I did respect him.
I have never voted for the NDP. Before the May federal election, when the NDP surprised us with 30 per cent of the vote, I fleetingly considered supporting Jack Layton’s New Democrats, but couldn’t swallow his proposals for spending and tax increases. Jack seemed like a good enough guy, but for mostly fiscal reasons, I didn’t want him running the country.
As someone who never supported Jack politically, and honestly, likely would not have if he were able to run again, I still feel his death is sorrowful loss for young Canadians. Despite being in his sixties, Jack was indisputably the best of the federal leaders at connecting with the nation’s youth. He reached out to us despite our record of poor turnout at the polls. For this reason, Jack transcended party lines as a man who spoke to Canadian youths.
Jack Layton’s record with the under-30 crowd started when he was as a city councillor in Toronto. He was known to always save time for questions from young journalists during scrums and worked directly with university students on local issues that they cared passionately about, even those as seemingly insignificant as saving a couple of Victorian homes. Later, as federal leader of the NDP, Layton spoke directly to Canadian young people through venues such as Much on Demand, encouraging engagement, interaction, and faith in the political system. And then, of course, there was his final letter to Canadians, in which he penned a paragraph specifically to Canada’s youth, expressing his “belief in [their] power to change this country and the world.”
Political pandering is often a deliberate, pragmatic process, which is why so few politicians give youth the time of day. With such poor voter turnout among 18 to 25-year-old Canadians, other parties think it’s better to spend the campaign retirement home-hopping than wasting an afternoon on a university campus. But for Jack, it didn’t seem to matter.
I didn’t always agree with what Jack said, but I did always appreciate the fact that he was trying to speak to me. I’m not going to fawn, nor do the opposite and don a silly wig while making a grotesque statement about “National Necrophilia Week” like Ezra Levant. But I will say that Layton’s death means young Canadians of all stripes have lost an important federal advocate. I may not have given him my vote, but he did have my respect, and that’s because I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
Why Kwantlen professor Shinder Purewal is wrong to attack Vancouver Pride
When I heard about Kwantlen University Professor Shinder Purewal and his tweet saying that the Vancouver Pride Parade should be banned, I didn’t think much of it. Professors, like everyone else, have the right to be wrong.
But Purewal’s more detailed comments in the National Post were so outrageous that something has to be said by way of rebuttal.
In the interview, Purewal moderates his position to say that he doesn’t want the whole parade banned, but he does want to see an end to the “explicit sexuality” of the event. His main reasons are, first, that publicly sexual behaviour is inappropriate for children, and second, that gay men and women ought to celebrate their rights, but should do it behind closed doors, not “openly, in the streets.”
Children often provide convenient cover for those made uncomfortable by alternate sexualities. One can always say, “I don’t have a problem, but think of the children.” But why should gay sexuality be so harmful for children? What kind of pure wall does Purewal think kids have to be hidden behind? In any case, the kinds of things that go on at major Pride events are no secret. If you don’t think it’s appropriate for your kids, don’t take them.
But the really maddening part of Purewal’s argument is his suggestion that heterosexuals don’t behave so explicitly, so why should gay men and women at pride do so? Well, in fact, straight people display their sexual orientations in public all the time, and they do so without fear of being verbally abused or physically assaulted. The majority doesn’t have to make noise about being the majority because they are the majority. We don’t need a White History Month in Canada because the contributions of white Canadians haven’t been ignored. By the same token, many gay men and women make an issue of their sexuality in a way that heterosexuals don’t because straight people didn’t have to hide for centuries. Straight people didn’t have to worry about losing their friends or their jobs, or being declared mentally ill, or, in extreme cases, going to prison because of their sexuality. So if the sexuality on display in your local Pride parade bothers you, weigh that against the hundreds of years of oppression, oppression that is just now beginning to lift.
But what about the professor’s claim that other groups have fought for their rights and didn’t make a big deal of it? As Purewal said to the Post, “Women had to fight for the right to vote and the fight to be recognized as persons. They didn’t go out walking naked and saying ‘Look, we are women, see us.’” Actually, feminists have done exactly that, but the faulty parallel here is still stark. Gay men and women flaunt their sexuality during Pride because it was their sexuality that they once had have to conceal. The real parallel would be to say that women should vote but not “flaunt” their political involvement. After all, we wouldn’t want children seeing women voting, now, would we?
Purewal claims he is not homophobic, but if he is truly a champion of gay rights as he claims, he should reconsider his view. Canada has come a long way on gay rights in a relatively short period of time.
We should all be Proud.
Ultimately, the decision to vote should be a personal one
The other night I participated in an organized group discussion about the youth vote and upcoming federal election. (Doesn’t that sound riveting?) As part of the event, participants were asked to indicate to the group if they plan on voting, and if so, who they plan on supporting. Among the crowd was a group of brave souls who, feeling disengaged and disenfranchised, declared their intention to stay home on May 2. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “ZOMG, someone, save them!” “Others are dying for this TYPE OF DEMOCRACY!”
I was beginning to believe “Not Voting” was some sort of communicable disease by the way these individuals were avoided that night. It was mostly leers and whispers until the microphone made its way around and self-appointed democracy-advocates made their impassioned pleas to the misguided. “You’re ruining it for everyone!” they said. “Don’t be politically lazy!” “We are the future!” “Gaaahh!”
Of course, the vomit was slowly rising in my throat by that point. Most upsetting was that I generally agreed with the voting advocates (minus the starry-eyed optimism). I think young people should vote, especially since it’s clear politicians won’t pay greater attention to the concerns of youth until they’re convinced they can rely on their votes. Young people can make the change by voting. I was incredibly dismayed, however, by the tone of the individuals who chose to unleash verbal attacks on the non-voters. They were convinced that the deliberate choice to refrain from voting was a disgraceful one and something certainly worthy of indignation.
It’s not surprising that this election has given rise to that sort of sentiment. Over the past few weeks, young people have been the target of pundit pleas, messages from TV personalities, and campus pressure to participate in vote mobs. And while the messages have largely been positive–encouraging youth to exercise their democratic right to cast a ballot—the latent effect has been to make a taboo of the equally democratic right to not cast a ballot. It seems focus on getting young people out to the polls has demonized the decision to stay home.
The reasons cited for choosing not to vote are usually the same among young people. They either don’t care enough to vote, they feel they aren’t well informed enough to vote, or else are so disenfranchised and dismayed by the system that they don’t want to validate the process by voting. I personally feel each reason to be insufficient (though I can sympathize with the last one, especially since there is no constructive way to express discontent with the system since spoiling a federal ballot is illegal in Canada, for some reason), but each individual has the freedom to decide if she or he wants to participate. Voting is a right, not an obligation, just as, say, the freedom of peaceful assembly is a right, not an obligation. Just because that right exists doesn’t mean we are compelled to make use of it.
The shamers will also soon come to realize that one of the worst ways to get people on your side, especially in politics, is with guilt and pressure. (Ask your friends about their blocked Twitter lists if you need any further confirmation.) Perhaps it is true that young people who choose to stay home will be “ruining it for the rest of us” by lowering turnout numbers for the youth demographic, but reminding them of that will not further anyone’s cause. Nor will a vote mob dance party–sorry to interrupt the glee. The outraged can try to explain to committed non-voters why they should vote (as opposed to explaining why they are terrible people for choosing not to), or else, move to Australia and enjoy life. In Canada, the decision to vote is a personal choice and one that should be respected, even if we don’t like it.
Don’t wear the wrong colour t-shirt
Sure vote mobs are great, but do they really help first time voters make sense of the upcoming election?
While only a stiff drink and total disregard for all common sense could truly do that, hopefully these suggestions will make casting your first vote a little bit easier.
In a democratic society, not voting is still an exercise in civic responsibility
My mother always told me the only person we can change is ourself. Robert Fowler’s mother must not have taught him the same lesson. The former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations told a group of young adults about to graduate on Sunday that they don’t deserve to be critical of established government because, as a rule, they don’t vote.
This is the essence of ignorance, and the venue he chose to deliver his “great assessment of civilization” makes it all the more infuriating.
Fowler was at the fall convocation ceremony at the University of Ottawa to accept an honorary degree. But rather than using his time at the podium to inspire the soon-to-be graduates, he chose to chastise them based on his own over-simplified view of society. He claimed young people are “intellectually dishonest” and that “they don’t deserve bitching rights” because they don’t turn out to vote.
Political engagement is a two-way street. And not only does Fowler refuse to admit any responsibility his generation may play in the so-called apathy of youth, he goes as far to suggest that young people are not allowed an opinion if they don’t vote, as if voting is the only way one can engage civically.
As citizens of a free and democratic society, we have the right to put our own stamp on this country’s history, and just because we don’t vote in droves it doesn’t give political leaders a reason to ignore us, or worse, try to silence us.
Fowler went on to say: “You seem to be enthusiastically disqualifying yourselves from any right to demand good government in your own country, and effective Canadian engagement abroad.”
Not voting is still an exercise in civic responsibility and people shouldn’t be criticized for deciding against putting an X on a piece of a paper. By the same token, voting is not the only avenue we measure civic engagement and a country’s reputation on the world stage is not the result of a single group’s actions in that society.
A 2005 Statistics Canada survey on youth-political engagement found that youth are just as engaged in non-voting political activity as 30- to 64-year-olds, and they’re more engaged in non-voting political activity than Canadians over 65, who are the most likely to vote.
The question of supposed youth apathy is multi-faceted, with many factors beyond simple laziness. Sure, some young adults are lazy — as are some old adults — but many more participate in their communities and greater Canadian society through a number of untraditional avenues. There is discourse and interest happening, but just because it’s unrecognizable or different to those who’ve come before us, it doesn’t make it any less of a valid contribution to society. Society changes as its youth grow up and influence it in their own unique ways. This is the mark of progress.
So, Robert Fowler, next time you want to bitch about young people and how lazy we allegedly are, how about you try to engage in a discussion with a generation you clearly know nothing about — especially when you have an opportunity to address young people directly. It might do you, and Canada, some good.
Until you’re willing to have that discussion, though, perhaps your mother taught you another lesson: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
It’s hard to jump into an electoral system where you feel worthless and ignored
Fellow blogger Jeff Rybak thinks young people are being labeled apathetic when it comes to politics and don’t deserve it. He suggests that these new forms of connecting and networking, which we value more than voting, are the start of something new and big.
I hope he’s right, because I’m a big pile of disenchanted with Canadian politics, and I’m only 18 years old. Here is something I wrote back in June, when Iggy was threatening to throw a hissy over employment insurance and send Canadians to the polls. I thought I’d share it in response to Jeff’s comments:
Last time there was an election, I missed voting in it by 33 days. As someone who was raised in a government town by parents who work in government and politics, I’ve been waiting for it to be my turn to vote for a long time. I was 10 when I started watching the West Wing and even younger when I sat at my dining room table during dinner parties, listening to my parents and their friends discuss politics. I willed my brain to absorb every mysterious, exciting word of it – and gradually, it started to work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t will my birthday a month earlier.
As the election approached, I realized that a lot of my friends were planning not to vote. Mostly they were lazy, or busy; the registration centre was outside our campus bubble. A lot of people had been so swept up in first year stuff that they had no time to keep track of real world stuff. They didn’t know the issues, they told me, so why vote?
I do see the issue with uninformed voters casting ballots to whichever candidate’s name sticks best in their mind. I didn’t argue with them. At least they’re informed enough to know they don’t know, right? But that idea still didn’t feel right. Didn’t that drive them crazy? Didn’t they want to know? No matter what, I just couldn’t find a way to support someone’s excuse not to vote. I WISH I could vote, I kept lamenting. I momentarily thought about vote swapping, like Donna did on the West Wing when she accidentally voted Republican, only, in this case, I’d get someone to vote the way I would have voted because they didn’t care
This week when the news started up about a possible summer election, I started to feel excited while everyone else groaned. Sure, no one really wants an election – but when is a good time of year, exactly? For me, summer is perfect – I have more free time to stay up-to-date, I’m in my home riding, it’ll be easier to register when I have someone to drive me there. I even know where the neighbourhood polling station is.
But… who would I vote for? The more I think about it, the more I feel just as disenchanted as my peers. Sure, there are ideas that I believe in and I want to elect a government who shares my values, but the issues that are most important to me aren’t on the map. Because I’m a student. Because no one cares that I’m paying way too much money, money I don’t currently have, for my education so I can support them later. Because students don’t vote. And suddenly, I see it. There it is. It’s a vicious circle.
The U.S. presidential election pulled it out last year with record numbers of students voting and participating in campaigning. One poll last October reported a ridiculous percentage of Canadians would give up their vote in the next Canadian election in order to vote in the American election. And here we are, standing in the shadow of the threat of a summer election with zero wind in our sails. You would think that the parties would have noticed by now how good it can get when you get students – or anyone – excited.
Maybe it’s a problem with our election system; because elections tend to be more reactionary, there’s less room for setting an agenda. Maybe we students need to get off our butts and be less apathetic and set the agenda. Maybe it’s impossible, at least for now. But I don’t want to lose interest, I want to have something to get excited about. I want someone to talk to me, not down to me. I want someone to fight for my vote. I want to feel like my vote is worth something to someone.
Who knows if there will be an election this summer – right now it seems like the Liberals are backing down. Who knows… and who cares.
Young people aren’t voting, and therefore stuff is our fault
I’ve had this opinion column forwarded to me by a couple different folks now. The premise is an old one. Because young people are not participating in traditional democracy and party politics, whatever problems that may exist in the system are therefore our fault. I say “our” without fear of contradiction because Mr. Lawrence Martin has managed to define young as anything under 50 or so. Here’s his piece.
The young reject the political status quo, as they should, but they are too lazy to do anything about it. Most of the under-25s don’t even bother to vote. Instead of fighting for change, they wallow in their vanities and entitlements. Not much turns them on except the Idol shows, movies with smut humour and the latest hand-held instruments. Their disillusionment with the political class is understood. Their complacency isn’t. It will soon be their country. You’d think they’d want to take the reins.
Now with all due respect to Mr. Martin, and his very old view of politics, we moved past this level of analysis by the third week in my first year political science course. It’s well understood that young people are turning away from voting and traditional democracy. Hell, everyone is turning away from voting and traditional democracy. The numbers are down across the board. It’s just that younger demographics are down more than others. Maybe that just means we’re ahead of the curve.
What this column ignores are all the other means and venues through which young people express their views and their politics. Cause-based organizations draw all kinds of support from youth. Electronic communities and participation in web-based media has been transformative. Citizen journalism alone, for all its buzzishness, has given a level of voice and initiative to young people that they’ve never enjoyed before. Scratch the surface of any effective political action, from what’s going on in Iran to the mainstream but nontraditional success of Obama’s Presidential campaign, and you’ll find young people doing what no one has ever done before. Okay, so we aren’t voting in high numbers. Maybe that’s because we’ve become convinced there may well be something better than traditional party politics out there.
Anyway, I throw the topic out there for comments. But it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The most amusing thing about the whole piece is that a man in his 60′s could write about how kids today are lazy and don’t care, imagine he’s saying something original, and fail to see the irony of his own perspective. Some of his points are valid and important but the tone he brings to the topic seems calculated to piss off the very people he claims to want to reach.
For the record, I do vote, and I’ve participated in mainstream politics for some time. I encourage everyone to do so as well. But I participate from a sense of obligation and a willingness to try every avenue – not from the belief that traditional party politics are the solution to our problems. I believe very strongly that new solutions will come from new means of participation and social organization. The kinds of engagement that are on the rise among the young may well turn out to be far more important than the votes they aren’t casting.
Questions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.