With 17.7 million Canadians casting a ballot – or 68.3 per cent of registered voters – 2015 saw the highest level of voter turnout since 1993. But while this number is impressive, it still leaves the voice of millions of Canadians dormant and their interests unrepresented. 

Voting rates of people aged 18 to 24 came in at 57 per cent of eligible voters. Despite a seeming underperformance, this number was actually up from 42.5 per cent in 2011 – equating to some 1.2 million more voters in this cohort. Many associate the strong showing of youth voters to the Liberal’s majority, as the party won their vote by a significant margin.

Whatever party young voters cast their ballots for, it is essential that they turn out this October, as they are voting on issues that strongly affect them. 

What Makes You Tick (the Ballot)

In an age where Canadians have more access to information and social media platforms than before, 18 to 24 year-olds are becoming increasingly engaged politically. Now, more than ever, is the time to extend their influence beyond Twitter’s 280 characters and make their voices heard on issues directly affecting them, such as the affordability and climate change. What better way to do so than voting? 

Increasingly, it is becoming more and more difficult for young Canadians to break into the housing market, with the cost of real estate skyrocketing. The topic of affordability is in the forefront of many residents’ minds, lending itself to be a large issue in the upcoming election. 

As soon-to-be first-time home buyers and renters, young voters are significantly affected by this issue – more so than previous generations. Additionally, with the rise of the gig economy, Canadians are finding it harder to obtain steady jobs with a career trajectory and benefits, further exacerbating the problem.

Meanwhile, on the environment, young voters do not have the same luxury as older generations do to push environmental concerns to the wayside. The most severe effects of climate degradation are long-term, and therefore not an immediate problem worth considering when this cohort casts their ballots. Youth, on the other hand, will be facing these long-term effects of climate change. Therefore, it is of direct concern how, and if, adequate policy is implemented to protect the environment.  

The Ease (or Lack Thereof) of Voting 

Historically, youth voters have shown low turnout on election day. A study commissioned by Elections Canada found that the most important predictors of whether those aged 18 to 34 will cast a ballot are voting location and civic duty. These are followed by political interest, political knowledge, and external efficiency. 

To counter the location barrier for young voters, Elections Canada opened temporary offices on some college and university campuses to increase the accessibility of voting in the federal election. When this project began in 2015, nine per cent of the target electorate used these offices, resulting in around 70,000 more votes. This initiative significantly contributed to the total percentage of the targeted electorate who voted: 57 per cent. 

Voter turnout is proven to be higher among those who view voting as a civic duty, rather than a choice. But, nearly half (48 per cent) of first-time electors aged 18 to 22 consider voting to be a choice, while older adults are more likely (64 per cent) to view voting as a duty. Increasingly, Canadian electors must see voting as a civic duty, and a critical pillar of democracy. 

The Bottom Line

Whatever the reason, voters should not be discouraged from having their voices heard at the polls this fall. As a generation facing enormous pressure and the stress of finding jobs, getting housing, and protecting the environment, young Canadians must turn out and ensure their interests are taken into account this election season. 

Edited by Lewie Haar

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association. 

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