Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Student 'voters' share opinions about parties, provincial issues

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Sure, ignore these kids because they're kids and they don't have a vote on Oct. 4.

But do so at your peril -- they'll be voters soon, they have long memories and they're not hearing much about anything that matters to them.

Nor do they find anyone seeking office is listening to them.

Students at hundreds of schools throughout Manitoba are taking part in Student Vote, the non-profit organization that provides classroom materials about the electoral process and then conducts realistic student voting.

At Windsor Park Collegiate, social studies and law teacher Sandi Wagner is working with bright students, some of whom participated in the Student Vote federal election last May.

They're complaining the election is pretty much all about health care -- to grab the attention of older voters -- and crime. They're hoping voters realize it's the city that decides how to deploy police, not the province, and that it's the federal government that legislates the Criminal Code, not the province.

"People are so concerned about apathy -- would you not want to engage young voters?" said Wagner. "It really bothers me that adults don't listen to teens. If we stopped to listen to them, we could learn something."

Grade 12 student Taylor DeCaigny said when candidates come to the door, "They ask if you're 18," and leave if you're not eligible to vote. "Hopefully, they'll take us seriously by the time we're 18."

She's not impressed by attack ads: "Why should we vote for someone who just puts people down?"

Fellow Grade 12 student Sarah Cable agreed: "Don't talk about why I shouldn't vote for them, tell me why I should vote for you.

"They don't really target us," she said. "If they had a Facebook page, that'd be ideal."

Windsor Park Grade 9 student Krissy Gilmore says attack ads are nothing but bullying. She's not hearing about capping class size in high school: "I've been in a class of 32 since Grade 1."

She's hearing a lot from the parties about health care, but, "They're only saying health care so older people will pay attention."

Local candidates do matter, said Gilmore. The school is in Radisson riding. "Does everyone know who (NDP incumbent) Bidhu Jha is, because he has such a cool name?" she enthused.

Windsor Park Grade 12 student Shirine Adel wants to hear a lot more than she's hearing about post-secondary education. "They don't listen to what we say. We're going to university next year, we actually care about prices and such."

But ask the Student Vote enthusiasts about Bipole III, and you get a roomful of shrugs and puzzled looks. As the pundit jargon goes, that issue doesn't resonate with youth.

Teacher Devin King is concentrating on analyzing campaigns with his grades 4 and 5 at Harrow School in Fort Garry-Riverview, looking for positive and negative ads and for media bias.

Kenan Faustino is all over a newspaper story, spotting the players immediately. "Greg Selinger and Hugh McFadyen -- I knew it," he chortled in triumph.

Ally Delisle hasn't heard a lot about what the Conservatives would do in office: "They're always attacking the NDP," she pointed out.

Gwyneth Gilana isn't impressed by Liberal candidate Kevin Freedman's ad, a take on the most interesting man in the world commercials. Way too blurry, hold the camera steady, she advised.

King takes a classroom vote twice a day. A few hours earlier, Tory candidate Ian Rabb had visited the class, and won the morning vote handily, 17-8 over the NDP. But in the afternoon, the final commercial is the NDP showing nifty panoramic footage of hydro projects, arenas, and other samples of growth, with a musical background.

The vote was 16 NDP, eight Conservatives, one Liberal in the class.

So, polls really are a snapshot of one moment in time.

"The NDP influenced people" in the afternoon vote, Antonia Colavito concluded.

"Sometimes we don't know we're being influenced," King said.

At H.S. Paul School in St. Vital, in the Seine River riding, teacher Ronald Miechkota's grades 3 and 4 class know more about the differences between provincial and municipal governments than some adults who have the vote.

They're learning names of parties and leaders, with issues still to come.

Peter Ulici knows blue is the Tory colour.

Classmate Emerson Korzeniowski sparks a debate about a lack of female candidates by expressing her enthusiasm for New Democrat incumbent Theresa Oswald: "I don't like the other guys, and she's a girl, she's pretty," said Emerson.

Said Noah Reeder: "I'm learning that voting is important."

Final word to Windsor Park Collegiate's Gilmore: "I'm super-excited, I love politics. Who cares about drinking, I get to vote" at 18, she laughed.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

It's a first for us

 

STUDENT Vote will hold a Manitoba provincial election for the first time, after conducting votes among students in 11 federal and provincial elections since 2003.

The non-profit organization provides materials for teachers to do election lessons in the classroom, examine the democratic process, local candidates and the issues.

Come election day, the students vote and the results are toted from the schools within each riding. The Student Vote results from schools within Manitoba's 57 ridings will appear in the Free Press on Oct. 5.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2011 A5

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