By Amy Badry
“Students Vote” was the cheer heard across campus during the University of Calgary’s vote mob. But did the red and white wearing students get out and vote? The election resulted in a conservative majority and Rob Anders, MP for Calgary West, has identified post-secondary issues in need of attention in the coming years.
Voter turnout in the 2008 general election was 58 per cent. Only 38 per cent of those aged 18-24, however, turned out to cast their vote — 20 per cent less than the population at large.
Elections Canada spokesperson John Enright was hopeful about increased youth voter turnout for this election.
“We don’t have results from this election yet, but we are encouraged because youth seemed to be more engaged this election,” said Enright. “There were a lot more vocalization among youth about voting.”
Enright cited vote mobs and rallies as a positive way for youth to engage.
“But whether or not those translated to actual votes, I don’t know,” he said.
Elections Canada does not have data on youth voter turnout for the most recent election. Overall voter turnout, however, increased 3.5 per cent.
U of C students conducted a vote mob on April 13. Students’ Union president Dylan Jones said approximately 100 students turned out for the rally.
“Vote mob was really exciting,” said Jones. “You don’t see a lot of rallies at the University of Calgary.”
Jones believes students care and realize it is important to vote.
Elections Canada is currently trying to determine what keeps young people away from the ballot box.
“Youth are telling us they lead busy lives, they don’t have time, they don’t understand the process, it means nothing to them, it has no relevancy to them,” said Enright.
In order to make voting more accessible for youth, Elections Canada is focusing their efforts on kids under the age of 18.
“We just launched a program in Ontario where we are putting a module on democracy and elections into the curriculum,” said Enright.
Currently Alberta does not have this program but the Ontario teacher kits are available to any teacher in the country.
Conservative MP Rob Anders was re-elected for a sixth term in Calgary West, the U of C’s riding.
With 39,996 votes Anders beat his next competitor by more than 28,000 votes.
“Obviously Calgary West wanted to see us carry on with a low tax plan to grow the economy and create jobs,” said Anders.
Anders said he understands what students want when they leave university. “They come out, they want to get a job, they want to pay down their student loans.”
Anders plans to work with the government to make textbooks tax deductible as well as introduce tax-free scholarships and bursaries.
“The Conservative government is also working at enhancing the Canada student loan program for part- time students,” said Anders. “If you are somebody who is looking to go back to school but is still doing part time work because you have bills to pay you can access Canada student loans, whereas years past, it was more difficult.”
The SU is working with the Canadian Alliance of Students Association to lobby the government to eliminate parental contribution expectations when applying for student loans.
Jones said the government has taken interest in the CASA policy and has hopes for its success.
“It is kind of exciting that we have such a strong presence of Calgary in Ottawa now. We are really excited to make this happen,” said Jones.