On Campus

Apparently, they don't care.

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.