As I strolled down my school’s main hall, a teacher pulled me aside and asked, “Have you voted yet?” It was the Canadian federal election season, and the buzz of the election was present throughout the school. There was a student vote happening that would be tallied but wouldn’t actually impact the election. Before answering my teacher’s question, I thought to myself, “Why does my opinion even matter?”
The Canadian federal election recently wrapped up, and the results are in: Justin Trudeau is returning for another term as Prime Minister, but this time, with a minority government. Throughout the election, I was captivated by the shocking controversies and intense debates that arose. After every major event leading up to the final election, my friends and I would talk about the political standings of each candidate, and what it would mean for Canada, if they were elected to lead our country. To name a few:
On September 18, 2019, Justin Trudeau’s campaign hit a wall of controversy as photos of him dressed in ‘blackface’ surfaced online. News outlets were quick to call him hypocritical because of his promise for equality in Canada.
The highly controversial Progressive Conservative Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, angered Ontario citizens by cutting education funds. This may have persuaded some voters to vote against the Conservatives.
The Canadian Election Debate took place on October 7, 2019. Candidates fiercely argued about a range of contentious topics including healthcare and climate change.
Each headline marched towards the climax of decision day, and I was fully immersed in the election timeline. But after the votes were tallied, I was left with a sense of emptiness. I had dedicated so much time and research into this election, and yet I could not contribute with a legitimate vote.
When faced with the decision of whether I should vote or not, my teacher explained to me the reason behind student elections. Students have a voice in Canada, and our votes matter. Student votes are an important source of data for future elections because students are the next generation of voters. As a result, when a student takes the initiative to act on their concerns, there will be a difference.
An example of the student voice’s impact was the 2015 federal election, where the Liberal party succeeded in defeating Steven Harper of the Conservatives, the former Prime Minister. Their victory heavily relied on the data from student votes in the previous 2011 federal election. By focusing on students, the Liberal’s campaign was tailored to satisfy young voters. One idea that the Liberals pushed was the legalization of marijuana. This campaign appealed to young citizens, who wanted to use cannabis. As a result, the voting turnout of individuals age 18–24 increased considerably, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party was victorious.
This year, Canada’s election results reflect a divided nation. With a minority government, it will be more difficult for Prime Minister Trudeau and his team to function and to please Canadians. Many factors, such as generational gaps, urban-rural divide, and cultural differences, are politically dividing Canadians and leading the country into greater polarization. Despite this, I believe the actions of youth change-makers can help move Canada towards a more unified nation.
When students vocalize their beliefs and values, they have the potential to make a difference in how decisions are made. When students take initiative for what matters to them, results will show and people will listen. 1UP is an example of an organization that is empowering youth to enhance their communities at the local level. With the help of 1UP mentors and workshops, students, like me, can create meaningful projects in or around our schools. Students can advocate for issues that matter to young people through meeting and working with local councilors and other elected officials. By becoming a 1UP fellow, any student can work to solve a problem while having access to a rich network of ambitious individuals. No matter how insignificant it may seem, any idea can make an impact.