More than ever before, Canada’s political parties need to be able to speak to the millennial generation.
The B.C. Federation of Students launched its ‘Our Time is Now’ campaign last week on Vancouver Island in an effort to get students registered and engaged in the lead-up to the Oct. 21 federal election.
According to a report by the BCFS, the 2019 election marks “the first time in 40 years that Canadians under 35 will form the largest age cohort,” with millennials representing 37 per cent of the electorate.
“Which is historic,” said Tanysha Klassen, chairperson of the B.C. Federation of Students. “That’s a huge number of young people that are going to really be able to shift the vote.”
In the 2015 federal election, voter turnout among Canadians aged 18-24 spiked to 57.1 per cent, from 38.8 per cent in 2011 and even lower than that in 2008. Klassen said people who vote for a first time are more likely to vote a second time, and so on, “so it turns into a lifelong pattern.”
She said it’s exciting when she’s approached by students who have just turned 18 and want to know the process for registering and finding out information about the parties and candidates.
“It’s like a privilege you gain when you become that age and suddenly you can help make decisions,” said Anouk Borris, chairperson of the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union.
VIUSU launched its get-out-the-vote efforts last Tuesday in Nanaimo as a part of a club information event at the university’s cafeteria, and campus young Greens and young Conservatives attended.
Klassen said young people basically care about the “exact same issues” as other voter groups, with affordability and climate high on the list.
“We don’t have niche issues but we’re also not a homogeneous group,” she said. “Everybody has these similar issues, like the rest of the population does, but the ways that young people want to go about handling those issues varies greatly.”
The BCFS report notes that there are “real struggles” facing millennials including affordability, climate change, human rights and limited access to stable economic opportunities.
“Millennials will be galvanized to seek solutions,” the report notes, including at the ballot box.
The report also comments that “negative tropes about youth apathy perpetuated by the media and by pundits are a form of voter suppression” by suggesting to young people that their vote won’t matter because not enough of their peers are voting. The ‘Our Time is Now’ campaign, said Klassen, is meant to empower young people this election.
“We know that we get out and vote and that we’re activists and that we’re engaged,” she said. “There’s just always been a negative narrative through media and older generations saying the young people don’t vote, which we all know is wrong, but we need to make sure we get out there and prove that to people.”
For more information about the campaign, visit www.ourtimeisnow.ca.