Courting the youth vote ahead of Election Day 

Canadians head to the polls on Monday, Oct. 19

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - YOUNG BLOOD Green Party candidate Ken Melamed speaks at a campaign event geared towards young voters at the Whistler Brewing Company.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • YOUNG BLOOD Green Party candidate Ken Melamed speaks at a campaign event geared towards young voters at the Whistler Brewing Company.

It's a late-September evening in Whistler, and a few dozen people have come out to the Whistler Brewing Company to enjoy some brews and hear Green Party candidate Ken Melamed talk about his campaign.

Tonight's event — one of several "Vote Jams" held by Melamed in the riding — is geared towards young voters 35 and under.

As Election Day approaches, it's a key demographic — according to Elections Canada, just 38.8 per cent of electors aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2011 general election.

How do you reverse the trend?

"Like this," Melamed says, gesturing around the room. "Probably the most effective way is going door to door, so we're doing that old-style foot canvassing."

And Melamed believes young voters will relate to what the Greens are offering — stimulus funding for youth employment, $1 billion for job skills and training, and of course, an emphasis on sustainability.

"The Green Party generally has this idea that we need to get people into the economy so that everybody is working towards the same goal, and everybody can realize their potential," Melamed said, highlighting Green proposals such as a guaranteed livable income and the abolition of student loans.

"Given that the youth are going to inherit a world that is increasingly at risk, there's never been a more urgent time for them to get participating in this," he said.

And according to Liberal candidate Pam Goldsmith-Jones, that urgency has translated into action — the number of young people signing up to get involved with her campaign has been "astonishing," she said.

"We've got great youth leaders, and the way we attract them is by giving them serious responsibility in the campaign," she said.

"This election is definitely about the future. It's about climate change and environmental policies that youth are passionate about, and they're attaching to these things and promoting them themselves."

From a national platform perspective, Goldsmith-Jones said the Liberal Party has a plan to invest in youth jobs — 120,000 over the next three years — as well as infrastructure.

"Our economic stimulus approach is intended to give hope, and our youth employment strategy is intended to help that age group with whatever skills training they may need," she said.

According to NDP candidate Larry Koopman, younger voters in the Whistler and Squamish areas have consistently raised concerns around housing and daycare.

"I hear a lot of people talking about how expensive childcare is, and that that's really preventing so many women from entering the workforce, which then leads us to Whistler and Squamish needing more workers," Koopman said.

The NDP will help Canada's young people by investing $200 million over four years to help create jobs, paid internships and co-op placements for young people, Koopman said. It will also introduce a national childcare plan.

Koopman, Goldsmith-Jones and Melamed all said that the desire for electoral reform is a common sentiment among the riding's youth.

"They don't feel that their voices are being represented, and when I talk to them about proportional representation, they're hearing it and they're really excited about that," Koopman said.

Like his opponents, incumbent Conservative MP John Weston has found the public to be very engaged throughout the riding, though he's hearing different concerns from young people.

Young residents of the Sea to Sky are concerned about protecting their environment, yes, but they also want to keep taxes low, Weston said.

"I'm seeing young people with jobs who are getting their first paycheques, and they see the taxes being taken away from them and they say, 'Wow, that's a big burden,'" Weston said. "So they want lower taxes."

After an all-candidates meeting at Quest University in Squamish, Weston said one student asked him about a promise of free tuition.

"He was asking two questions: He was asking where was the financial capacity to fund all the promises he was hearing, but he was also asking about the integrity of the candidates," Weston said.

"People who promise what they cannot deliver in order to get elected, they undermine trust in the system."

And trust in the system is essential to a healthy democracy, Weston said.

"Time and again, the formula for political success and for democratic health that I see is a group of people unified by some common interest. Passionate, competent (people)... who trust the system," he said, citing his work with local constituents in getting action items into Budget 2015.


With all of the riding's candidates confirmed, all that's left to do now is vote.

Joining Weston, Goldsmith-Jones, Koopman and Melamed on the ballot will be Carol-Lee Chapman, representing the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, and Robin Kehler, representing the Marijuana Party.

Voting day is Monday, Oct. 19, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Advance polling days run from Friday, Oct. 9 to Monday, Oct. 12, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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