Young voters make up one of the largest groups of eligible voters in the federal election. However, from 1980 to 2015, Canada’s youngest voters turned out for federal general elections in numbers well below the turnout rate for all other demographic groups.
Despite their size, young Canadians remain overlooked when it comes to the election. It is often said that political party election platforms do not include issues that are important to young people. Newmarket Era spoke with Meshall Awan, regional organizer of Future Majority, on the issues matter the most to them.
“Young Canadians in this election make up the largest voting group in the country. So right now, they are more politically engaged than ever,” Awan said. “Young people make up about 40 per cent of the electorate, which is a really, really large number.”
Future Majority is a national, non-partisan not-for-profit that builds power among young Canadians and mobilizes them to vote.
On Sept. 15, with less than a week before the election day, Awan led a team of volunteers canvassing in Newmarket-Aurora riding to collect vote pledges from young Canadians.
“What we want politicians to be focusing on, especially for our generation, is the fact that we are facing two massive issues, the first of which there's like a looming climate crisis, the beginning of which we are in right now,” Awan said.
“Our generation is facing that massive climate catastrophe that we talked about so much going from coast to coast ... We have been experiencing massive heat waves, deadly wildfires and unpredictable weather patterns.”
Another priority, Awan said, is job instability during this pandemic. A lot of job loss, especially among young Canadians. One in six young Canadian ended up losing their job because of the pandemic, Awan said.
She felt the pain of young people facing an uncertain economic future.
“I graduated in August 2020, during the peak of COVID-19. It was incredibly difficult for new graduates to find stable jobs in the midst of an unprecedented crisis,” Awan said.
“It's hard for people to find entry-level jobs. And when talking to young people in various ridings or across Canada, my friends and family, they have said the same thing about how it's incredibly difficult for them to find jobs.”
She demanded the politicians tackle climate change and job instability for young people.
“Placing a price on carbon, providing green jobs for young people. Regardless of education, regardless of background in urban and rural areas, we want politicians to be talking to young people and creating these jobs for them. That is something that all young people are going to be looking towards politicians to address in this election,” Awan said.
The pandemic economy not only cast a shadow on the young working class, but also the middle-class businessperson.
Tracy Macgregor, president and CEO of Newmarket Chamber of Commerce said it is important for the next MP to have a clear strategy to tackle the debt GDP ratio, but her biggest concern is business recovery.
“For some of the hardest hit sectors, I don't think we can just stop the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy. Because they have been hit so hard by the pandemic, they are going to need a replacement program,” Macgregor said. “To ensure our businesses can recover, our next representative will need to advocate for debt relief measures for those companies.”
Irene Wong talked to young voters and chamber of commerce in Newmarket-Aurora riding about their concerns for the federal election, and what they want and expect from the next government and local MP.
Irene Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun