Emma Gilchrist

The subtle art of giving a *#@% about the Canadian election

A five-step guide for young voters

I get excited about lots of things: croissants, good books, the surf forecast, Netflix.

But the Canadian election is a tough thing to get amped on right now, even though it’s such a tight race. It doesn’t help that it’s starting to get dark before dinner — a phenomenon that has a way of dulling one’s enthusiasm for many things.

But Canadians’ disenchantment with the prospect of casting a ballot on Monday goes beyond the late-fall blues. 

“It’s been a horrible campaign,” Frank Graves, the president of Ekos Research, a polling firm, told the New York Times. “People are discouraged in the extreme.”

The debates — if you’ve forced yourself to watch any of them — have mostly spawned deep sighs, eye rolls and disillusionment with this whole damn democracy thing.

I have a personal rule that every time someone starts talking about Donald Trump, I make them talk about the Canadian election instead. (My friends love me, I swear.)

The most common sentiment I’ve heard over the past few weeks? “I just really dislike all politicians and hate having to choose the least-bad person.”

Fair. It’s easy to want to just tune out of the whole thing. Heck, it’s even kind of trendy to tune out of the whole thing. (Need I mention that a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is at No. 2 in the ‘advice’ section of the New York Times Bestseller list and has been on that list for at least two years? Spoiler alert: it’s actually about how to give f*cks selectively.)

But, despite all of these bummer factors, there are some really good reasons why it’s worth summoning the willpower to get out to the ballot box on Monday.

As a millennial myself, I find it pretty exciting that 18 to 38-year-olds are the largest group of voters this election, at 37 per cent.

“If political parties want to win in October, they need to have the millennials on-side,” according to opinion research firm Abacus Data.

Eighty-seven per cent of millennials consider themselves to be either environmental moderates or ardent environmentalists.

We finally outweigh the baby boomers. That’s kind of a big deal. 

As the folks at Future Majority put it:

“Young Canadians have grown up in the shadows of older generations who until now have had the most power in shaping our electorate. Historically, politicians have been able to succeed without representing us while in office. But not anymore … We are the new majority.”

Here’s the thing though: us young-ish folk show up way less reliably to vote than older voters. The kicker: in a close race, the outcome is largely going to be determined by voter turnout.

With the leading parties pretty much tied and tons of ridings up for grabs, young voters have the opportunity to change the outcome of this election, simply by getting out to vote on Monday.

How the hell do I figure out who to vote for?

Because of Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system, what we really have on our hands are 338 individual elections — one in each electoral district, or riding, in the country.

While this makes for some tricky voting choices, the upside is even if you feel disenchanted with those leaders’ debates, you can still find some hope in the fact that what you’re really voting for is a local representative.

Here’s how to figure out what to do:

Step 1: Find out what riding you live in

Step 2: Check out your local candidates (once you put in your postal code on the Elections Canada site, scroll down and click the “who are the candidates in my electoral district” button).

Step 3: Don’t have any idea who you want to support? Take the Vote Compass quiz to find out how your values align with the parties. Another great resource for young Canadians are Generation Squeeze’s handy voting guides

Step 4: Many Canadians choose to vote strategically depending on who the leading contenders are in their riding. Check out 338Canada to learn what happened in your riding in the last election and how the race is shaping up this time.

Step 5: Find your polling station and get ‘er done. 

In the 2015 election, voter turnout was the highest it’s been in 22 years, with 68.3 per cent of voters casting a ballot. The biggest jump was among 18- to 24-year-olds. Compared to 2011, 18 per cent more of Canada’s youngest voters chose to do some adulting and cast a ballot in 2015. 

This increase in turnout, especially among young women, was largely credited with Trudeau’s victory. And while many young people may feel jaded about that outcome now, the fact is that just by showing up in larger numbers, young people forced politicians to shift their platforms to address our concerns (climate change and affordability — two top-tier millennial concerns — are the issues in this election). 

All of which is to say, if you aren’t super enthused about the choices, you’re not alone. But by getting out to the ballot box — even if you don’t elect the candidate of your choice — you still may help move the needle on issues that matter.

Young people have been leading the way in climate strikes around the world this year, but to make the change we need to see in the world, we also need to be a leading force at the ballot box.  

If you’re still feeling like you’re in the “all politicians are liars” camp, take a deep breath, go back to Step 2 and look at your local candidates.

Then, on Monday, just go do it.

Emma Gilchrist is a reporter, editor, public speaker and spreadsheet-keeper. She started her journalism career more than 15 years ago…

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