Copyright © 2019 Federation of Students, University of Waterloo operating as Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association
Why should I bother voting?
October 21, 2019.
Does that date mean anything to you? If not, this is the date of the upcoming Canadian federal election. The results of the votes you cast will determine the next members of the House of Commons to the Canadian Parliament and more importantly, the Prime Minister!
But maybe you’re buying into the hype? After all, elections seem to happen every couple of years with the same parties boasting similar platforms. Most of the ridings have had the same dominant party for years and overall voting might not feel special to you. And you’re not to blame. For many of us, politics and politicians can seem very detached from our daily lives, since we’re all largely reliant on the media. And even if past policy changes impacted us, we might not know which party was responsible.
But we’re here to tell you that voting still matters!
- You are part of a democracy!
Canada is a country governed by the voice of the people – folks just like you and me, highlighting the issues that are important to us and electing those we believe can follow through. It’s our civic duty to vote – a privilege many are still fighting for. “We should not take the right to vote for granted,'' says President of the UW Young Greens [external link] Devan Munn. "In many countries, people are still fighting for free and fair elections. Even in Canada, it’s been a long process to get universal suffrage. Voting honours the memory of women and indigenous Canadians who fought for the right to vote. It’s important to actively engage the democratic process – which can look different for everyone." You’ve heard it before, and it really is true. Every. Vote. Counts.
"In many countries, people are still fighting for free and fair elections."
- But the parties are so similar!
This is a problem we often hear. There are too many parties that address the same core issues with only slight differences. How is anyone supposed to keep track of all of that? Well, the first step is to critically engage. Consuming several forms of media, attending local rallies, and interacting with other politically-minded students can serve as a starting point. If you like to get the big picture, there are many helpful tools online, like CBC News' Platform Comparison [external link] or Maclean's Platform Guide [external link] that break down each party. You can also check the party websites for more information.
- Issues affect students the most
Many of the issues at the forefront of this election will have considerable effects on the long term future of our generation. And guess what? We (Canadians aged 18-38) happen to be the biggest voting cohort! Politicians know it and now you know it too. We can see this in the key issues shaping this election – the climate crisis, affordable housing, the gig economy, and pharmacare. These are the issues we feel the most. If you think Canada, in all its diversity, is not reflecting its standard of inclusion, make that known with your vote.
- It’s easy and free!
Relative to the massive impact your input can have, voting is a piece of cake. "Just get out and do it," recommends UW Young Liberals’ [external link] Chief Officer, Jacque German, "I often tell people who think they don't know enough to vote that the do and that when given the opportunity to speak on their identity, experiences, values, and principles, or when hearing from others with different ones from their own, you can start to see exactly where you stand and what you want."
"I often tell people who think they don't know enough to vote that they do."
- It pushes politicians towards more positive change
Politicians exist to play to the needs and concerns of their voters. By engaging in an election, you are shaping how they see their voters. WUSA’s VP Education, Matthew Gerrits believes we’ve already been successful in the past: "The more committed a voting group is to assessing policies and voting, the more likely politicians are to be incentivized to put positive policy proposals forward that benefit that group."
Students have already done a good job of this – the Liberal federal government has drastically shifted the amount of money available for student grants, the Conservative Party is committing to RESPs changes, and the NDP has committed to one of the asks put out by student associations across the country, by endorsing the elimination of interest on federal student debt. Politicians do listen to the changes you want, but that only works if you use your vote to speak up.
I’m a first-time voter. What should I do?
The very first thing you should do, is determine if you’re registered to vote and where you’re able to. Knowing this well in advance will really help you out on election day. Whether you’re a first-time voter or returning, your base of operations for the upcoming federal election is Elections Canada [external link]. This site will help you establish key voter information, such as your riding and candidates and also walk you through registration.
Next up? Educate! Learn about the different parties, leaders, their key issues, and all candidates so that you can make an informed decision come election day. While online resources are a great place to start, don’t be afraid to connect with politicians in your community. "Local candidates are always willing to talk if you have any questions regarding the election, policy or their own thoughts," says President of the UW Campus Conservatives [external link] Chris Bearne.
Next, determine if you’re registered to vote and where you’re able to. Knowing this well in advance will really help you out on election day. Whether you’re a first-time voter or returning, your base of operations for the upcoming federal election is Elections Canada [external link]. This site will help you establish key voter information, such as your riding and candidates and also walk you through registration.
Want to get involved?
At WUSA, we love connecting students who share similar interests and want to explore new ones through our clubs. We have a variety of politically and socially aware clubs that can help you feel better connected and get you started in the world of politics. You can check out our political clubs through our Clubs Directory.
Our clubs leverage pre-existing relationships with political parties, which make them a great way to get into existing networks of people with similar interests, find mentorship, and learn how politics really work. Don’t believe me? Take it from UW Young Liberals’ Chief Officer Jacque German who attests, "…both speaking and hearing from others is a great way to develop your own political sense of self. Clubs are great incubators for that type of development."
So Warriors, let's do this! You can vote on campus beginning tomorrow, October 5 until October 9, in SLC 2135 or MC 2037A.