The Game-changers Tour: Mobilizing the Youth Vote Across Canada

Guest post by Brigette DePape, the Get Out the Vote Campaigner with the Council of Canadians

I’m really excited for the upcoming Game-changer events happening at Simon Fraser University. In the lead up to the upcoming Federal election, people from our generation are getting organized to boost voter turnout among our peers, and finally see a change in government. There will be some fantastic speakers, including Tahia Ahmed from Check Your Head, and Tessica from the Student Society. There will also be a chance for students to come together and brainstorm action to get out the vote.

GC_photo1I definitely understand why most see voting as futile. In the 2011 election when I was a University of Ottawa student, someone asked me to volunteer to go door-knocking. But I really didn’t see the point. Since then, I’ve had a change in heart. After four years under the current government, I now want to do everything in my power to see a government that does reflect our values.

In 2011, the riding of Burnaby-Douglas, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart was elected with 20,943 votes, whereas Conservative Ronald Leung came very close with 19,932 votes. The riding will be dissolved into Burnaby-North Seymour and Burnaby South. The riding of Burnaby South is one where youth at Simon Fraser University, located nearby, and BCIT Burnaby Campus, located in the riding, can make the difference of who is elected.

I definitely understand the cynicism around voting, and I share a lot of it. In my perspective, voting alone is not the solution to a failing democracy, but it is one critical step within our means in the next few months to see some change we want.

One problem is politicians aren’t really speaking to our issues. So how can we get politicians to listen? When we don’t vote, they don’t see how ignoring us will affect their bottom line. Youth unemployment. Student debt. Climate change. Indigenous rights. These are among the issues youth care about but many politicians are so far ignoring.

Politicians are more likely to act on issues we care about if we show them we have the power to elect or reject them. What do we have that politicians want? Our votes. It’s easy to feel completely powerless as young people over decisions that matter having grown up only in a time of neo-liberal governments where our power is often diminished to consumer choices such as Apple or Sony. But our votes can be a source of power for us for issues that matter — such as whether or not we go to war, take action on climate change, have good health care and other issues.

I’m excited to be joining with youth in BC, where I now live, after traveling to Winnipeg, my hometown, for the launch of the tour, and stopping as well in Regina. This is part of our democracy campaign at the Council of Canadians. With the first part of our campaign, we aim to inspire and educate, to build our base of youth leaders and collect vote pledges, and with the second part closer to the election, we aim to mobilize our base to vote. After SFU, we’ll be heading to Nipissing University, Ryerson and others.

GC_photo2Studies show the best way to get out the vote is through personal contact and connection. Many groups are leading in this model of face-to-face election engagement, such as LeadNow. We’re excited to be partnering with dynamic groups throughout the tour. For many of the stops, we’re really grateful to be partnering with the Canadian Federation of Students, which has a dynamic and active student base across the country and which has launched a fantastic new campaign, It’s No Secret.

We hope to see you at the upcoming events. We’re excited to be working with Check Your Head and the SFU Students Society on these events.

Join us for the Game-Changers event Monday, March 16th to come and meet other like-minded young people, learn about challenges and opportunities of mobilizing youth for the 2015 federal election, and plan creative ways to get out the vote. It will be at the Harbour Centre from 4:00-5:30PM.

Want to take action? Join us for a Game-changers training and canvass Tuesday, March 17. We’ll also be going out and collecting vote pledges from students on campus. It is taking place at 2290 Maggie Benston Centre (MBC) on Tuesday, March 17 from 4:00-5:30 p.m.