Many will remember me as the Senate page who held up the "Stop Harper" sign during a throne speech. Frustrated with politics as usual, I felt that I could not trust the political system, much less Harper.

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This article was published 25/2/2015 (2645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Many will remember me as the Senate page who held up the "Stop Harper" sign during a throne speech. Frustrated with politics as usual, I felt that I could not trust the political system, much less Harper.

Our votes can be a source of power for issues that matter ‐ whether we go to war, take action on climate change, have good health care.

I understood why most see voting as futile. In the 2011 election when I was a University of Ottawa student, someone asked me to volunteer to go door-knocking. But I really didn't see the point.

Since then, I've had a change in heart. After four years under the current government, I now want to do everything in my power to see a government that does reflect our values.

About 1.8 million eligible youth didn't vote in 2011. In contrast, the Conservatives took the majority government by only 6,201 votes across 308 ridings. A wave of young voters in 2015 stands to be the election game-changer nobody saw coming. Just look at the 2011 election results for the Ontario riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming. The Conservative candidate took it by only 36 votes. But there are 5,300 students on the campus of Nipissing University. Imagine that just one floor of residents on campus has the power to decide that race!

I definitely understand the cynicism around voting, and I share a lot of it. In my perspective, voting alone is not the solution to a failing democracy, but it is one critical step within our means in the next few months to see some change we want.

One problem is politicians aren't really speaking to our issues. So how can we get politicians to listen? When we don't vote, they don't see how ignoring us will affect their bottom line. Youth unemployment. Student debt. Climate change. Indigenous rights. These are among the issues youth care about but many politicians are so far ignoring. I'm really grateful to groups such as ShitHarperDid who are actually putting an intention into speaking to youth in a way that resonates with their realities.

Politicians are more likely to act on issues we care about if we show them we have the power to elect or reject them. What do we have that politicians want? Our votes. It's easy to feel completely powerless as young people over decisions that matter having grown up only in a time of neo-liberal governments where our power is often diminished to consumer choices such as Apple or Sony. But our votes can be a source of power for us for issues that matter -- such as whether or not we go to war, take action on climate change, have good health care and other issues.

I'm excited to be in Winnipeg, my hometown, today on the first stop of our 2015 GameChangers tour to get out the youth vote. This is part of our democracy campaign at the Council of Canadians. With the first part of our campaign, we aim to inspire and educate, to build our base of youth leaders and collect vote pledges, and with the second part closer to the election, we aim to mobilize our base to vote. After Winnipeg, we'll be heading to the University of Regina, Simon Fraser University, Nipissing University, Ryerson and others.

Studies show the best way to get out the vote is through personal contact and connection. Many groups are leading in this model of face-to-face election engagement, such as LeadNow. We're really grateful to groups like SHD.ca for their inspiration to work on youth campaigning around the election. We're excited to be partnering with dynamic groups throughout the tour. For many of the stops, we're really grateful to be partnering with the Canadian Federation of Students, which has a dynamic and active student base across the country and which has launched a fantastic new campaign, It's No Secret.

 

Brigette DePape is the Get Out the Youth Vote campaigner with the Council of Canadians.