For the past couple of weeks, elections in Ontario have been the one of the most discussed topics in the media. Promotional material for all the major parties has flooded television, newspapers and various online forums. While the message each party presents is different, a number of similar issues are being discussed, including job creation, transportation, health care, and public tax dollars. However, in my opinion, something crucial is not being discussed about as often as it should : issues relevant to young adults. Political parties rarely address issues that are most important to youth, especially post-secondary education issues, and whenever these issues are talked about, they are not presented in an accessible way to thier intended audience, compounding the issue.
The public is under the impression that ‘students don’t vote’. This is a statement that needs to be corrected. The reality is that students do vote, but the percentage of students who vote relative to the provincial average is lower than those in other demographics. In the 2011 provincial election it is estimated that youth (aged 18-25) had a voting turnout of 35%. This turnout is estimated to be less than 10-20% than in other demographics, but one must also remember that the provincial turnout was 49% and that there has been a steady decline in these numbers over the last decade. Accusing students as being the only disengaged audience during elections is wrong; low voter turnout is a province wide issue, not just a student one.
In an effort to increase student awareness and engagement during this election, the MSU has lauched an information campaign entitled ‘#MacVotes’ as an offshoot of the MSU website. All the information that a student will need to be able to vote has been compiled in one easy to access source, with links for those who wish to explore further. The provided information is meant to be non-partisan in order to ensure that students are educated about what each party has to offer to post-secondary education, in turn allowing students to make an informed vote. Promotional material for this campaign has been placed throughout campus; however the bulk of the information is online. We encourage all students to discuss the elections by using the #Macvotes hash tag on Twitter and Facebook in order to start the conversation and keep youth engaged.
This past Wednesday, May 28, the MSU hosted an all-candidates debate for the riding of Ancaster- Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, the riding that McMaster resides in. This debate was attended by many students, faculty, and staff as well by community members. Candidates from the Green Party of Ontario, the Ontario Liberal Party, the Ontario New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario were present and answered various answers pertinent to post-secondary education and the Hamilton community. This debate was recorded and is available on the MacVotes webpage as well as The Silhouette Livestream site.
On June 12, Ontarians will be headed to the polls to elect a provincial government. We encourage all students and the public to get informed and get out there and vote. For more information be sure to check out msumcmaster.ca/macvotes and remember to make an educated choice this election!