Engaging young people in political life is everybody’s business

(Anne Minh-Thu Quach) – On November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. This election is not just affecting our neighbours to the South; it is a shock for the entire world. Once again, I’m staggered by the low voter turnout, particularly among young people.

 

We see the same phenomenon in Canada. Although young people’s participation in the electoral process did increase in 2015, it is still below average. And yet our young people have the power to change Canada’s political landscape. According to the pollster Nik Nanos, the content of the political debates and the results of the 2011 federal election would have been different if young people had been more mobilized to participate.

 

Low voter turnout is not symptomatic of a lack of interest in other aspects of society. Young people don’t lack initiative when it comes to helping the community. Among our citizens in the 15‑to-24 age bracket, 66% are involved in volunteer work, a record compared with other age groups.

In their day-to-day lives, our young people are showing that they want to make Canada a more just country. I am thinking, for example, of the members of 4-H clubs, scouts and cadets who are involved in projects to help their fellow citizens throughout our riding. The new generation is participating in civic life in a different way, without systematically going to polls.

Political decisions have an impact on the daily life of every Canadian. Some fields, like education, the environment or employment, affect young people more specifically. We therefore have to encourage them to say what they think about the issues that concern them.

If voter turnout among young people is low, it is because the political class does not involve them enough. For years, young people have felt ignored by the men and women in politics. We have to give our young people a voice, listen to their ideas and connect with them as equals. As elected representatives, we have a duty to get young people interested in political life and encourage them to vote.

I am the New Democratic Party’s Youth Critic. In my opinion, this role absolutely involves talking to young people themselves. Sharing ideas on ways we can help young people have a definite influence on our public policies. That is why I am going to tour Quebec to ask Generation Y about all the issues that affect them.

I will start these consultations in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, in our riding, and I invite everyone 35 years of age and younger to meet me on November 24 at La Factrie (17 du Marché). We’ll talk about art, culture and a range of other topics. Whatever your path in life and your involvement in the world of culture and politics, I am interested in what you have to say.

Young people are the present and future of Canada. We will not be able to build a more just and more inclusive country without letting them have their say.