How important is the youth vote?

Canada will vote for our next Prime Minister a week from today (October 19), and it’s really freaking important that we youths exercise our democratic rights.

At the 2011 election, only about 38% of 18-24 year olds cast a ballot, and only about 18% of Canadians voted for the current Harper government (watch this amazing video); Harper’s Conservatives won by only 1.3 million votes.  CBC says there are almost three million 18-24 year olds eligible to vote this year; if all three million of us turn off Netflix for 10 minutes next Monday and drag our lazy asses to a polling station, we could CHANGE CANADA.

And for the love of all that’s good and holy please don’t use the phrase “I’m just one person, my vote doesn’t matter.” Every vote counts. If you don’t believe me, believe Canadian comedian and all around brilliant dude Rick Mercer; take 5 minutes and read or watch this to find out just how important your single vote can be.

Convinced? Good. Now you need to figure out who to vote for.

(If you don’t feel like reading everything, there are great resources I’ve attached at the bottom)

As a disclaimer, I really really really dislike Prime Minister Stephen Harper both as a person and as the leader of our amazing country. I haven’t written it yet, but I can all but guarantee that his section will be the longest; you’ll see why.

I’ve included tons of links to articles by journalists better than me who explain my points better than I do. Feel free to click on them to become even more informed.

The Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper

On the surface, a lot of the Conservatives’ platform points sound promising. The party’s goal is to create 1.3 million jobs by 2020, stimulate the economy by investing $750 million per year, and balance the budget every year. They will reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% and increase contributions to RESPs.

But. BUT. Over Harper’s past nine years as our esteemed Prime Minister, a lot of shit has gone down. The most publicized issue was the Senate expense scandal feat. Mike Duffy — Google it, it’s great stuff. I’m going to focus on more recent blunders, but here’s a short article highlighting gaffes farther in the past.

Throughout his tenure — and especially during his campaign — the Prime Minister has avoided and silenced the media. Journalists are the cornerstone of our democratic rights to freedom of expression and the press. We’re the watchdogs ensuring our government is doing what it’s supposed to do.

He doesn’t answer reporters’ questions following press conferences. He’s managed to control the message so well that journalists have even been barred and banned from campaign events, like this Vice reporter was, if they ask ‘unwanted’ questions or don’t side with the Conservative party.

Beyond all of this, Harper started a war on science. He made the census voluntary, so scientists don’t have accurate data to work with. Scientists working for government agencies are banned from discussing their research with the public. A Canadian scientist was even suspended from his job for writing an anti-Harper song called “Harperman.” A union of scientists has abandoned its historical neutrality to campaign against the Prime Minister.

In sum, Harper has made it so he and his government have never answered the hard questions, and he’s repressing our access to information and therefore our democratic rights.

Still, it gets worse. Harper vowed during a campaign rally in April to ban travel to countries he deems to be hot spots of terrorist activity. How he plans to arbitrarily name countries as hotbeds of terrorist activity, I don’t know. But if he’s voted in, if you go visit your family in Turkey next year, you might now be on a list of suspected Canadian terrorists. Peace and love.

He’s using fear politics. He’s made the federal campaign all about the issue surrounding the right of federal service employees to wear a niqab. He’s making Canadians think we need to fight a war on our neighbours; he hired an Australian strategist purposely to employ the use of fear. He’s made it incredibly challenging for refugees to get safely to Canada. He proposed the introduction of Bill C-51, a piece of legislation focused on anti-terrorism that will increase police powers in Canada, another instrument of fear politics that will increase government powers.

Lastly, Harper backed out of the Kyoto protocol, which was a legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and he sold the majority of our Alberta oil sands to Chinese-owned companies. The oil sands, apart from our freshwater lakes, are one of Canada’s most valuable natural resources, and we no longer control them. He’s also used up much of Canada’s limited credit with the United States and President Obama by focusing Canada-U.S. discussions on the the Keystone XL pipeline.

Now, I’ll stop ranting about Mr. Harper. If you’d like to learn more about his dictator-like actions (such as his despicable treatment of our Aboriginal population), read this fabulous  iPolitics article.

The Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau

All of the Conservatives’ attack ads against Mr. Trudeau have been based on the commonly held belief that the 43-year-old isn’t ready to lead a country. He became a Member of Parliament in 2008, prior to that working as a teacher and advocate.

As the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Mr. Trudeau has been accused of riding on his father’s coattails. He’s been accused of being just a pretty face.

His campaign is very youth-focused. A few weeks ago, Mr. Trudeau spoke at a Vice media event about how important it is for youth to vote. He’s pledged $1.5 billion over four years to help create 40,000 youth jobs annually, as well as an additional $40 million per year to create co-op positions and another $25 million annually to allow youth to get across the country for work.

In addition, Trudeau would increase the amount of grant money accessible by low-income students, and graduates won’t have to start repaying loans until they earn at least $25,000 per year. He would maintain the tuition tax credit.

Beyond youth, Trudeau is all about dat middle class. He plans on reducing taxes on those in the middle class and raising taxes on those in the upper class.

But, unlike the other parties, Trudeau isn’t promising to immediately balance the budget. Instead, his party will invest billions of dollars in infrastructure and transit, and then run at a deficit of $10 billion per year, balancing the budget by 2018/2019.

Other platform points include legalizing marijuana and making it a controlled substance, reforming Canada’s out of date election system, and shift our military from combat missions to peacekeeping. The party will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the amount of Canadian protected wildlife from 1% to 5%. (source)

The New Democratic Party and Tom Mulcair

Mulcair was off to fabulous start, and as recently as as September 24 had 30% support in the polls. He’s now dropped to third place at 24%.

Why the drop? It occurred after the debate in Quebec that introduced the niqab issue. Trudeau and Mulcair both openly oppose banning niqabs for the federal public service, Harper for the ban.

Some of Mulcair’s platform points include opposing the Conservative’s advocacy of the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is a Conservative-supported free trade agreement between 12 countries around the Pacific Ocean. Mulcair vows to end discrimination in Canada and improve women’s healthcare and rights. He promised to abolish the Senate, which has been a source of major contention for Harper’s Conservatives.

Mulcair is open to a coalition government, will raise some taxes and lower others. He will raise minimum wage to $15 per hour, but that will only apply to federally regulated industries like banks. His party has pledged $200 million over four years to create 40,000 youth jobs. He will reduce small business tax and increase tax on big corporations.

Keep in mind that in order for the NDP to get elected, the party needs Quebec. And they don’t have Quebec anymore. Also, if you like Canada as it is now, Mulcair has vowed in the past to hold a Quebec separation referendum.

At the beginning of the campaign trail, Mulcair seemed like the agent of change Canada was looking for to combat Harper. But Mr. Trudeau has replaced Mulcair in the polls, and Mulcair faces an uphill battle. Mulcair said he would defeat Harper at the debates, and that didn’t happen. (source)

Here are some resources

That was a lot of information. If you’ve scrolled to the bottom like I generally do, here are some resources to make your decision on October 19th easier. Again, not voting isn’t a decision. Take action and use your democratic rights.

  1. Platform summaries: https://pollenize.org/canada (which I used extensively). On this website, you can favourite the platform points you agree with to determine which party you side with.
  2. Party websites: 
    https://www.liberal.ca/
    http://www.conservative.ca/
    http://www.ndp.ca/
  3. A great party preference quiz
  4. The best coverage of the election
  5. A great video about how important voting is
  6. Rick Mercer being a gem
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What Ontario’s youth should know before the election

Image from cbc.ca

Image from cbc.ca

On Monday I was walking down Church street and I heard a young woman, probably about 24 years-old, say the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

“I’m totally gonna vote Rob Ford for Premier! He was on Jimmy Kimmel! He’s, like, a celebrity.”

At first I thought she was joking, until her friend said, “Oh yeah, he’ll totally legalize marijuana in Canada.”

At that point, I lost all faith in humanity– or at least in a large percentage of Ontario’s youth.

Not only is Rob Ford involved in municipal politics rather than provincial, but even if by some horrible twist of fate he one day became our Ontario Premier, he would have absolutely no authority to legalize marijuana in all of Canada. That is a federal power.

The only thing scarier than the thought of Rob Ford running our province is the fact that many people of voting age in Ontario don’t even know there’s an election on June 12, let alone who the candidates are and what they stand for.

And for those of you who don’t care about politics, or think that your single vote won’t make a difference in the upcoming provincial election, I have a few facts and statistics that will hopefully change your mind about becoming (at least a little bit) informed.

  • Youth between the ages of 18-25 make up approximately 14% of Ontario’s voting population (1.5 million out of a total 10.7 million possible voters) (StatsCan)
  • In the last Ontario provincial election in 2011, the percentage difference between the victorious Liberals (37.65%) and official opposition Conservatives (35.45%) was 2.2%, or just 95,000 votes (StatsCan)
  • Out of a possible (approximately) 10 million voting-age Ontarians, less than half (4.3 million) actually voted in 2011
  • If all 1.5 million 18-25 year olds vote this year, they would therefore have the ability to swing the result

Your next question is probably: so what? Why should I vote at all? Nothing really changes, and even if it did, it wouldn’t impact me.

And, hopefully, the brief guideline below of the three major parties’ platforms will help you decide to care who governs the province of Ontario.

SIDEBAR: You may wonder why I’m not including the Green Party as a real option for Ontario. Mike Schreiner and his provincial Green Party do not have a platform nearly as detailed (and viable) as those of the other 3 parties. As the name suggests, the focus is on environmental policy. If you go here, you will find that the values of this party aren’t sufficient to run a province as intricate as Ontario. Healthcare isn’t even on the agenda.

Before I highlight each party’s platform, there’s something you should keep in mind: every political party will become corrupt. That’s not an exaggeration. In some way or another, power will overshadow the original values of the party, and when it inevitably happens, there will be a scandal.

I’m not only speaking about the recent provincial Liberal party scandals; I’m also referencing the corruption of the Fords at the municipal level, as well as the many scandals surrounding the federal Conservative party. The list goes on. Because when you’re dealing with the amount of money and resources available to Canadian politicians, a bad decision will be made here and there.

Ontario’s GDP is more than that of most countries (World Bank). With the knowledge that no party is perfect and they will most definitely get something wrong, consider the candidate/party that represents your values and deep-seated beliefs. Democracy is our system for a reason; there are checks and balances in place to prevent catastrophe. The candidates are accountable to the people, not the other way around.

So, with these thoughts in mind, consider the following candidates and their parties and research them more (because in no way am I providing the full story). Match their ideals with your own, and for Pete’s sake VOTE for who you think would be best suited to run our mini-country that is Ontario. Because, as you’ll see, many of their platform points will affect you. We have the ability to make change, so make your opinion an informed one.

The Liberal Party

  • Before you focus on the scandals, focus on the values and main goals of the party: affordable post-secondary education, universal healthcare (and maintaining our healthcare system), environmental responsibility, job creation and using tax money to subsidize the costs of living
  • They plan on keeping the 30% off Ontario tuition program, which is pertinent to youth
  • They are also planning on implementing a $3.5 billion jobs fund
  • To read more on Kathleen Wynne’s platform, go here
  • Party Backgrounder: Liberals are farther to the left than the Conservatives, but not as left as the NDP. What this means is the farther “left” a party is, the more involved it aims to be in the economy. NDP’s want to control many more aspects of Canadian life to a far greater extent than Conservatives; this means (if the NDP were in power) there would be more government funding programs, a more supervised economy, etc. Liberals want to enforce equality of opportunity, and will offer more help than the Conservatives, but not as much as the NDP.
  • In terms of background on their recent (multiple) scandals, read this story
  • The jist is that under former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, a lot of money was unnecessarily spent on numerous things, and the records were both hidden and destroyed
  • How much money, you ask? No one knows exactly. You’ll hear many different amounts, but it’s in the “holy f*&# you’re joking” range
  • Although Wynne wasn’t in control at the time, many of the more prominent Liberals have stayed on after McGuinty bowed out

The Progressive Conservative Party

  • As I mentioned above, the PC party is farther right than either the Liberals or NDP; this means (at a very basic level) that they want to reduce taxes, reduce government funded programs (most notably including pension plans), and stimulate the economy so it can function soundly without much government interference
  • Their main values also include: creating a competitive economy with greater entrepreneurship; cutting costs and maintaining a tight budget; reducing overall spending on social programs; and, basic family values (which included the abortion debate and vying for greater religious devotion in the past; these haven’t been platform issues recently)
  • Tim Hudak is the leader, and these are his main goals: to create a million jobs, cut taxes by 30% (by eliminating 100,000 public service jobs and replacing a corporate welfare program, in addition to other steps outlined here)
  • He is also going to eliminate the 30% off tuition program
  • To read more on Tim Hudak’s platform, go here

The New Democratic Party

  • Historically, the NDP have been far lefter than the Liberal or PC parties; they are considered socialist in their value system
  • Socialism, at its most basic, is a system dedicated to a high level of involvement in many aspects of public and private life. For example, they seek to expand public health care and increase funding for social assistance programs (like unemployment programs, re-entry, etc.)
  • Andrea Horwath is the leader of the NDP party, and her main platform points are: to cut small business tax and increase corporate tax; take HST off hydro bills; freeze Ontario tuition
  • To read her platform go here
  • It’s also important to mention that her focus is on childcare, education and the environment; her healthcare policies are far from specific, as are her budgeting plans

To read more on how this vote will affect students, go here.