When I turned 18 years old, I was obviously excited about all the new things I can now experience – like going to the casino or legally consuming alcohol. But, one thing that I overlooked until now was the experience of going to vote in an election for the first time.
It wasn’t until a week before voting that I realized that I could go out there and vote. Yet, when voting time came around I chose not to. And, after brief conversations with friends of mine, I found out that the majority of them didn’t vote as well. Why is it that voting numbers are slowly declining and not attracting the 18-year-old first-time voters? There’s a different way in which people my age would vote and the proper way to vote.
This recently caught my attention when one of my good friends was taking a politics course at the university. He would approach me and sometimes ask me, if I was going to vote during our recent election. I told him that I have no idea how elections work and that politics wasn’t really “my thing.”
This year’s Canadian election had one of the lowest, if not the lowest, voter turnouts in years. What’s to blame for it? Laziness? Well, that would be a given answer and probably the easiest way out. A more reasonable answer is that most of us (especially us younger voters) have no clear idea of how politics works (like which party does what and who leads which party). Younger people’s version of voting is something like phoning in for So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol. I, for one, am guilty of having no clue of anything politically related, which is why I don’t bother and is probably why other younger people don’t bother either.
I believe that my generation may have had little to no legitimate understanding of politics during their high school years; and our only shred of knowledge on the subject would be that found in history class. But, other than that, the subject of politics was simply a matter of choice for teenagers to learn about. I’m not saying that education is to blame, but since media in Canada isn’t attracting young people into caring about their government, I would think that education would attempt to fill that gap and try to persuade the new available voters.
Take a moment to look at the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain. So many people, even Canadians (including Canadian youth) were so drawn in because of the media; all the major broadcasting stations were covering the election (NBC, CBS, CNN). Sources say that this recent presidential election had a historic number of viewers watching it. Which channels did we have to promote Canadian elections? They obviously aren’t as big as those American networks as they apparently didn’t have that many people watching.
So I’m not saying we need an Obama-esque leader to spark young Canadians into voting (Although, that would be really cool to have an Obama of our own). We just need to put more focus on the topic of Canadian government for generations to come whether it’d be through media, education and everything in between. All the non-voters and first-time voters like me would be a lot more interested if our surroundings made Canadian politics a lot more interesting.
Tyler Magnaye is an active member of the Filipino community. He was the Youth Ambassador for the Pearl of the Orient Pavilion last August 2008, and is the Folklorama Youth Ambassador General for 2009. He is currently in his first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg.