Why don’t youth vote?

OPED Cartoon issue 2

As October 19 approaches, Canadians prepare to make a big decision on election day. For some, this decision is a no-brainer. While for others there may be last-minute second thoughts. But statistics show there is one group of Canadians that almost never shows up at the polling stations. This group is called the Millennials. If you’re reading this and you were born between the early 80s and the early 2000s, then you’re a Millennial and you are always lowest by voter demographics. Just one-third of youth, ages 18 to 24, voted in the last federal election. That is only 38 per cent of Canadian youth. What is the cause for low youth turnout?

While most Millennials don’t vote, this doesn’t mean that they are not politically active. If you turn on the TV or read the news, there are daily revolts and protests around the world. Who participates the most in these movements? The youth! This shows that young people are engaged in politics, if only to speak out against something. The problem that seems to be common with the Millennials’ low voter turnout is that while they do care about the issues, they don’t trust the system and as a result see their vote as useless.

Thanks to a few scandals here and a few arrests there, Millennials have good reasons not to trust the system. They don’t think politicians run for office because of the concerns of their constituency but rather for the politicians’ own selfish reasons. The recent Senate scandal revealed our politicians’ lack of honesty and respect of Canadians as well as politicians’ wastefulness with taxpayers’ dollar. The scandal found a number of unelected senators freely using large amounts of taxpayers’ money for luxurious hotels and living conditions. The same thing happened with an MP here at home not too long ago. Bev Oda, the now-retired MP for Durham, had her own little expense scandal: notably her limousine expenses of more than 17,000 dollars of taxpayers’ money. Ms. Oda’s punishment was a good slap on her wrist and a nice farewell pension.

Another reason Millennials turn away from the voting process is their feeling of hopelessness. Will these leaders make real commitments and follow through on their promises? Or will we see flip-flopping once in power? During the early 90s, many Canadians were opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many Canadians felt the Conservative government gave too much to the Americans and Mexicans for the sake of free trade zones. Some Canadians called for a renegotiation. If that failed, they wanted the government to scrap NAFTA. Jean Chrétien and the Liberal party stated that they would get rid of NAFTA, if talks failed. Chretien’s Liberals won the election in 1993 and began renegotiations, but they soon fell flat and it looked like NAFTA was to be scrapped. But instead of sticking to their promise, Chretien just threw that issue under the rug.

In the end, youth turnout boils down to a lack of trust in MPs and the system they serve. Millennials are under the belief that the parties don’t serve their interests, so why vote? What these Millennials might want to consider is the reason politicians don’t serve their interest. It is because the youth don’t vote. Politicians don’t talk enough about Millennial issues because Millennials don’t bring their issues to the ballot box. The equation is simple: the more votes, the higher priority of the issues. Youth should consider the possibility that the student debt crisis might be a top issue instead of a brushed over topic. If youth voted more often, this might be the case. It’s better to do something than do nothing at all, even if you believe it won’t make a difference. Go vote Millennials. Let’s see what happens.