I kept struggling to write this piece not simply because I don’t know what to say. It’s because this opinion piece unravels my version of the truth regarding the multiple factors as to why young people in Canada aren’t involved enough in politics. I would just like to briefly state it is not because young people are lazy or do not care. This opinion piece will consist of the ongoing frustrations many politics majors or even political ‘geeks’ commonly experiences regarding youth engagement in politics.
First off, I guess this piece is a bit bias considering I am a fourth-year politics major here at Acadia. However, the frustrations I have noticed over time seems to be an ongoing occurrence of having to constantly explain what has been happening within mainstream media. In particular, issues revolving around climate action or student debt.
Turning to the ongoing anxiety revolving around our climate crisis, most young people realize that this is a serious issue and we should act now. But what does this action look like? Multiple young people have shared, liked, retweeted Bill Nye’s comedic but alarming video about the climate crisis. As Bill Nye famously quotes: “the world is on fucking fire and we are not children anymore so that is why we should give a shit”. This article may seem to have a tone of anger and frustration. And to a certain extent well I am angry and frustrated because seriously, why don’t young people care about Canadian politics? This has been getting significantly better, I will admit. Movements revolving around Climate Action and the active discussion towards our future is prevalent, just not enough.
The active sharing on social media has filled our newsfeeds, with quotes from Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier and many other youth activists who have given us hope for our next generation.
With the next Federal Elections creeping around the corner, efforts from our students union have been made. Putting campaigns such as GET OUT THE VOTE, and providing non-partisan information of party platforms, events that candidates of the riding have attended. The education and the effort is there to encourage young people to vote within Canada. If programs such as these are available why is the turn out, historically lower?
Is it blatantly that people do not care or simply don’t have the time? These are the questions that I have been grappling with since the election had been called. A factor could very well be that older generations specifically baby boomers, have had the assumption young people were never really involved in politics for the past decade. A possibility around this notion is that politics seem to be compartmentalized around what we perceived to be political. When we generally think of politics, we assume it is our parliamentary system, politicians kissing babies, or Donald Trump’s questionable tweets. Popular American shows such as, Scandal, House of Cards, among many others have projected a glorified perception of politics. In reality, politics is obviously not how you would see it on American television.
The Politics department here at Acadia offers an intro course in politics.
Throughout this course we are taught that pretty much everything we encounter is political. First-year students often scoff at this absurd idea (including myself). How can everything be political? Well, I am well into my fourth year and Dr Geoffrey Whitehall will be pleased to know that everything is in fact political. Whether we like it or not. The concept of politics can even revolve around the food we buy, online shopping, the decision to buy a new iPhone, laptop or even the small decision of whether you choose to buy Cannabis from our current government or your local supplier. The choice between paper and plastic straws, reusable bags the list goes on. The choices you make in your everyday life has an influence on society whether we realize it or not.
The question then becomes: how do we get people more informed of Canadian politics? We have tried time and time again from changing school curriculums to providing better resources and not much seems to be working. Education has a large factor on future generations and youth voters. Being informed about issues that matter to you personally is extremely important. Forming your own opinion based off credible, accurate sources is vital to enrich our democracy. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, right or left your opinion matters.
Most people I’ve talked to recently have stated that they just don’t know enough to give their opinion and that is a fair point. There is nothing worse than an Arts/ humanities major stating they know more about the powerhouse of the cell than a 4th-year bio major, sounds ridiculous right? Well by putting that example into context that is what politics majors and political geeks must endure throughout election season.
So, my advice to you if you are a first-time voter is to ask the hard questions, discuss with your friends about issues that may matter to you, and if you’d like to reach out to your friends who are political geeks I’m sure they’d be happy to help. But please exercise your democratic right and vote.