You have no excuse

We, the proud youth of the Great White North, are many things. We are engineers, writers, scientists, singers, labourers, farmers and students. One thing we ain’t is voters.

According to a recent poll prepared by the Innovative Research Group only 50 per cent of 18- to 25-year-old Canadians plan to “definitely vote” in the upcoming election, down eight per cent from 2005.

What’s worse, of the 58 per cent who claimed, in 2005, that they would “definitely vote” only 44 per cent did. If this trend continues in 2008, youth at polling stations across the nation will be few and far between.

Here at the U of C, during SU elections, this plague of supposed apathy causes tremendous problems. If people aren’t voting, the legitimacy of the entire democratic process is thrown into question. In the 2006 Canadian federal election, 14.9 million votes were cast out of a population of 30 million. The reason we like to give for the low turnout is that people just don’t care.

But is this the case? Not according to the youth that were polled. Of the 18 to 25-year-olds who claimed that they were either “not likely” or “not at all likely” to vote, the top reason given, at 30 per cent, was not apathy, it was that they “don’t know enough (yet).”

Wow, great answer. Sure, it sounds a lot better than “don’t care/not interested” (11 per cent) but there isn’t really a difference. The Internet provides continuous updates on what the candidates are doing and where they’re headed. Want to know what spending promises the parties have made? It’s on the Internet. Want to know where any of the candidates were campaigning today and what they talked about? It’s on the damn Internet. Want to know what foibles the current prime minister has made over the last 20 years of his life (and I really hope you don’t)? That’s on the Internet too!

If you care to find out, it’s there and it’s easier to access than ever. Half an hour a day for a month, which we all can spare, is enough to bring you up to speed on the issues and allow you to make a reasonably informed vote.

But let’s give those polled some credit. They want to know more before they cast their ballot, and even though the information is out there, they can’t get to it. What’s the problem?

Simply stated, the problem is that we’ve been conditioned to expect bite-sized reporting from the media while simultaneously being told to recognize the importance of politics. It’s a catch-22. The media gives us exactly what we want: deliciously edible, bite-sized, juicy morsels of election coverage that give us no good idea of who to vote for. Then, after sliding down off the sugar high of uninformative speech clips, we’re left to discuss with our fellow youth how little we know about the parties and how we’re in no position to make an informed decision on something as high profile and important as politics.

So we don’t always know as much as we ought to and we probably never will. Politics are huge and yes, we’re busy, but we’ve still got to vote. If someone tells you that people who don’t know the issues shouldn’t vote, tell them to go to hell. This is a democracy– judge the system how you like, maybe you’ll go out and help elect a bad government, but at the very least, help elect someone.

Who knows, maybe after you resolve to vote you’ll miraculously find the time to educate your decision.


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