April 3, 2011

The Youth Vote

#CanadaVotes #elxn41

During this election season quite a few of my friends have taken an initiative to try to drum up some interest in politics in the oft-underrepresented "youth" demographic. I've been trying to do so a little myself (and so has Rick Mercer!) and I've come to one major realization along the way: we're just talking to ourselves.

Those of us Canadian youth that have ever had an interest in politics are already caught up in all the election hoopla. We're studiously analyzing each party's platform, discussing opinions with whomever will listen, and of course, posting as much information on Facebook and Twitter as our friends can take.

But who else is actually paying attention? The only people who are reading those posts or clicking those links are those who are posting them themselves. When was the last time you posted a link on Facebook and it got your friends that don't follow politics to comment on it? Or how many times have you talked to a friend about politics and found out that they don't click on links for politics cause they just don't care? And they're not interested in caring. You can argue with them as much as you want about how important it is and how their vote makes a difference, but they will have none of it. We're not engaging these people and they're the ones who will make the difference in the polls.


It's a frustrating thing. So many people just don't care. It does have some merit. Canadian politics can be extremely dull. We're such a centrist country that nothing far out ever seems to happen. Canadians are quite contented with a little socialism and a little capitalism.

I confess that I get apathetic towards Canadian politics at times. It can be extremely frustrating to have so many important issues to deal with and nobody you can trust to deal with them. So I just take a break. I've been forced to have little faith in the words coming out of most politicians mouths after history has shown me that almost every word that people like Harper and Ignatieff speak is chock full of lies and exaggerations. (and hatred. What's with the hatred?)


A combination of ignorant apathy and boredom-induced apathy fills up most of Canada's political history. Right now, however, is NOT one of the times when Canadian politics is dull. Some historic events have taken place in Parliament in the last 5 years and they're events that should be riling up some mighty strong emotions for and against. This is no time for apathy.

I could easily digress into a rant about some of those "events" that have happened in Ottawa in the last five years, but I'll save that for another time. My point is that the only people "riled up" about politics are those who have never really been apathetic towards it. How can we engage the rest of the youth? What would it take to convince the youth of Canada to read an article about Harper's platform instead of one about Charlie Sheen's latest rant? Or watch a clip of Layton's public address instead of the latest hockey fight?


I've had a lot of trouble coming up with any good ideas to answer these questions. Hence this post. So I turn to you. I assume if you've read this far, you're kinda like me and want your friends to get into this election, to have an opinion and to express that opinion in the polls.

So what should we do, folks?


Here's a couple thoughts I've just come up with. It's only a start and doesn't solve the problem... yet. Give me a hand and leave a comment with your solutions.

1. Make an effort to talk to someone who has not shown interest in the election. Talking in person really allows both the listeners and speaker to be engaged. Unlike posting opinions online, there will be a real human response and corresponding emotion.

2. Explain why this election is important. Why are the decisions that are made going to affect them as an individual? At a glance party platforms often don't seem to affect me. I have to think about it and look a little deeper to see how it will.

3. Don't take sides right away. Don't approach the discussion with an agenda. If you start pressing your "left-wing, liberal" ideas to a neo-conservative you've immediately created a barrier that may be hard to climb over. The purpose of this conversation is to get all the youth thinking about what's happening in Ottawa and create their own opinions so that their vote can truly represent their values.
Of course, if the person clearly already has some opinions and has thought a little about their stance, then I wouldn't blame you for attempting to convert them. :)

4. Man, I'm already out of ideas! What else can we do?


So get into it.
Make SURE your message is getting to the targeted audience.
Engage the youth.
And of course, vote.

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