They're still in elementary school — but these students' vote will count

An elementary class in Port Williams, N.S., had a big decision to make this week — who should they vote for?

The students in Temma Frecker's Grade 5/6 class at The Booker School are still several years away from casting a ballot themselves, but Frecker has entrusted her sacred civic duty to the next generation. 

It's a responsibility the students didn't take lightly.

"I learned tons of new stuff," said 10-year-old Forest Lussing. "I had a brief idea, but I didn't know anything about candidates. I just thought you chose a party and that was all."

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"We've learned probably more than the average Canadian," agreed 10-year-old Giffin Starratt.

In order to make an informed decision, the students spoke directly with some of the candidates running in Kings-Hants, a riding formerly held by Liberal Scott Brison. They also read news articles and watched the leaders' debates. 

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On Thursday, one by one, the students debated why the party they support deserves their teacher's vote. The class of six was split: three for the NDP, one for the Liberals, one for the Greens, and one undecided. 

The only party not represented by the students was the Conservatives. 

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"They're making a really informed choice here, and I was even trying to sway some people, play the devil's advocate and get them to consider other options, and they very strongly felt like based on the research that they had done that they couldn't do that," said Frecker. 

In the end, the kids decided their teacher should vote for the NDP's Stephen Schneider. They voted using a preferential voting system with a ranked ballot. 

Frecker said she got the idea from her husband's parents, who gave him control of their vote when he was a kid. 

She said she isn't worried about handing her vote over to a group of kids.

"I mean you've seen just how engaged and informed they are," she said. "So for me it's that they're making an informed choice, and that's what I ask of all Canadians."

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Lussing, who was solidly in the Green Party camp, said he ranked every party's platform on climate change, and Elizabeth May's team came out on top. 

Eleven-year-old Mason TeStroete, meanwhile, argued for Justin Trudeau's Liberals. He said he was especially impressed with Kody Blois, the 28-year-old Liberal candidate for Kings-Hants. 

Even though the students have different political views, they all agreed the exercise was worthwhile.

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For Jacob Townsend, 10, it's given him a base knowledge of federal politics that he can use when he heads to the polls himself. 

TeStroete said the big issues that matter to his classmates are the same ones that will matter when he's grown up. 

"Just thinking of what a world will be like in 2050 or something like that when we're like 30. When we have our kids and they're talking about this, what is it going to be like for them?" he said.

The other candidates running in the Kings-Hants riding are Conservative candidate Martha MacQuarrie, Green Party candidate Brogan Anderson, Matthew Southall for the People's Party of Canada, Stacey Dodge of the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada and Nicholas Tan for the Rhinoceros Party.