The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
There is a stigma about young people that we just don’t care. Astonishingly, I’m not talking about the disregard for the law with which our age group is often stereotyped. I’m talking about our disinterest in shaping the future.
Illustration by Noknoy Xayasane
In an effort to report on the Oct. 25 municipal government election for this paper, I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to interpret the mundane nexus of technical jargon that constructs our entire political system. There is a panic growing inside me that it is all for nothing.
"Young adults are not as likely to go to the polls." These words are taken directly from Statistics Canada’s web page regarding the 2008 election. Although there is much discussion as to why, it is obvious any attempts to change this have been futile.
Voting trends have actually taken a downward turn across the nation not just with young people, but the population in general. The year 2006 was reported to have the worst voter turnout of any federal election in Canadian history with just below 61 per cent of eligible voters taking part.
Some researchers have suggested that we don’t participate because we don’t feel the government supports issues we hold close at heart and that we feel we have no real say in political decisions. While I’m sure you’ll agree there is truth to both of these notions, there is a much larger wedge being driven between young people and politics: a blatant lack of character.
Why is it no Canadian politician can seem to distinguish himself/herself and really stand against the grain? I mean, who could blame us for a collective repugnance of the political body when we’re brought up in the midst of scandals and hear politicians joked about like lawyers and used car salesmen?
So, I ask, where is our Obama? Where is our time’s Trudeau? Perhaps if there were a politician we could actually identify with, we’d be more inclined to vote.
Political researchers often use the term "engaged skeptics" to describe young adults, meaning we follow the issues important to us but are untrusting of our representatives and the system in general. I honestly don’t think there is a better term to describe the majority of young people I know.
For example, when the Dalton McGuinty provincial government attempted to amend the driving laws in Ontario for people under the age of 21 in 2008, it was met by a huge backlash from critics and young people who felt their rights had been violated. A Facebook group on the matter gathered more than 95,000 fans in a span of just four days and after much attention the matter was dropped. With a little co-operation we quickly became an engaged skeptic majority and fortified our stance on an important issue.
Although the paper ballot alone may not seem to have a lot of weight, a stack of them does. On Oct. 25, decide what issues are important to you.