Improving voting turnout among Canada’s young people not easy

By Melissa Heald
Jan. 23, 2015

As a young Canadian, Amy Ackles knows voting is important.
“You can’t complain about anything that has to do with the roads or anything unless you vote,” said the Holland College student. “If you’re old enough to vote, you should vote.”
But many of Canada’s young people are not voting.
In the 2011 federal election, 38.8 per cent of voters were between the ages of 18 – 24 compared to the 68 per cent of voters who were 45 or older.
Nicky Adams, another Holland College student, said she doesn’t always vote.
“Sometimes I vote because I believe I could a make a change. And sometimes I don’t vote because I know it won’t make a difference at all.”
Kevin Page, the Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair of University of Ottawa and a former Parliamentary Budget officer for Canada, said young people have basically tuned out when it comes to politics.
“I think a lot of young people feel that a lot of the policy issues they find dear to them are not being addressed and not being discussed by political leaders.”
Page is also involved with Ivote/JeVote, an organization working to bring young people and politicians together. The organization has worked with pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research who polled youth and others at some of the events held by Ivote/JeVote.
Nanos found young people are highly engaged and very political astute, said Page.
“They understand issues in quite detail. They are not as cynical as people of my generation. They believe we can solve difficult problems. They think key priorities are long-term priorities, like the environment and education.”
For the health of Canada’s democracy, it’s important for political leaders to start talking about issues important to youth because they are willing to tackle tougher challenges, said Page.
“We need to get them into the fold so they’re providing their ideas and putting pressures on our political representatives to address these issues.”
Page said the challenge is finding ways to get voting turn out among young people to increase.
Evan Lane, a computer networking and technology student at Holland College, believes voting is important. He has only recently become voting age and he plans on voting when he gets the chance.
“I want to make a difference. I want my vote to count and change our government.”