The Oct. 19 federal election is fast approaching and once again there’s a lot of buzz around whether students will vote or not. Only 39 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted in 2011, but a recent survey by StudentVu, a national student research panel, suggests that this election could see an influx of students at the polls. Of 1,500 students surveyed, 76 per cent are planning to vote, which could alter the outcome of this election. Ryerson Folio sat down with members of the three political groups on campus to discuss the campaign, platforms, and what students want from their party.
How have you been campaigning for the federal election?
Martin Fox, co-president of Ryerson NDP: We were at Ryerson’s campus groups day on Sept. 9. We had a table with literature that the party had given us, along with a sign-up sheet for our club and a sign-up sheet directly from Linda McQuaig’s campaign, who is the NDP candidate for [Toronto Centre]. We offered people the choice to sign up for our club and do our activities, or to sign up directly with Linda and start volunteering on the campaign. We’re going to try to bring Linda here in October before the election to speak about youth issues, and have a Q-and-A about how the NDP relates to young people.
Philip Menecola, vice-president of Ryerson Campus Conservatives: Our executive team has door-knocked on thousands of doors the last couple of months. We have also been to and volunteered in the setup for party rallies. Our members have met up with candidates and incumbents through these opportunities. The Campus Conservatives also had a tabling event at Ryerson’s campus groups day where we explained why students should be voting Conservative, and to sign up general members.
Jagmeet Sra, president of Ryerson Young Liberals: At Ryerson, we’ve been tabling and providing information to students, making sure they know what they need and where to go to place their vote, and letting them know how important that it is they do vote. On the campaign side of things, we’ve been working hard supporting our downtown candidates: Bill Morneau for Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland for University-Rosedale, and Adam Vaughan for Spadina-Fort York. We canvass and make calls as much as we can, because it’s the ground game of campaigns that matter the most. We also host pub nights for students to come chat with our candidates and attend political rallies, debates, and socials because we believe that being active in your democracy is not only important, but also should and can actually be fun.
What do you think are the major issues for students in this election?
Fox: One big thing is minimum wage. It’s mostly young people who are working for minimum wage. It’s very low right now; you can’t really be secure on $11 an hour. Also transit and infrastructure. Transit and bike lanes have been underfunded, and repairs and maintenance have been underfunded. The federal government has been keeping more and more money, but it won’t give it to cities, and cities don’t raise that much money from taxes.
Menecola: The issues for students in elections are usually along the line of education, employment, and economics because of their direct reflection in the lives of students.
Sra: For students across Canada, our current unemployment rate is 13.1 per cent, almost triple the rate of adults over 25, and there are 170,000 fewer young people in the workforce now than before the 2008-2009 recession began. Youth employment and ensuring there are jobs and opportunities waiting for us after we graduate is a huge concern for us. For Ryerson students, where most of us are commuters, Canada’s infrastructure deficit is another major concern.
In what way does your party’s platform benefit students?
Fox: The NDP wants to make minimum wage $15 an hour federally. That’s not necessarily going to raise it, as provinces are responsible for their own [minimum wage], but it’s going to put pressure on them and that’s the best we can do being a federal party. Set the standard at $15 and then apply pressure to match that standard. The NDP also wants to give more money to cities, especially Toronto, by raising more revenue federally. This way Toronto could fund the transit that we need. We’re proposing $1.2 billion a year, a lot of which will come to Toronto. That’s a serious commitment.
Menecola: The federal Conservative government has made billions of dollars in investment towards post-secondary institutions across Canada. This includes $10.7 million towards Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone this past March. Taxes have been cut 160 times since 2006 under the Conservative government. Also tax credits have been introduced to students for expenses such as textbooks, tuition, commuting, and interests on student loans. The Employment Insurance Premium has also been reduced by 15 per cent to create more encouraging markets. The increase in the Tax-Free Savings Account limit is another reason to vote for the Conservative Party.
Sra: We’re really proud to stand behind a party that will be investing $1.3 billion in new jobs each year for the next three years – 13 times more than the NDP – and investing $40 million annually to create more co-op placements for students to help employers create new placement opportunities. The Liberal Party of Canada also understands that in order to grow the economy we need to address the infrastructure deficit. We’re committing to quadruple federal investment in public transit over the next decade and working with our cities and provinces to work with their priorities.
Why should students vote?
Fox: There are a lot of problems and they’re not going to get better unless people take action. Climate change and environmental disaster isn’t going to affect people who are 60, but we’re going to be around. If we don’t start building transit and more infrastructure, imagine what the subways will be like 20 years from now. It’s hard to think about that day-to-day, but there are large scale issues in our city and country, and we have to take action to ensure that 20 years from now they don’t become a problem.
Menecola: Students should vote because their education, employment, and Canada’s economy rely on the results of this upcoming election.
Sra: This election is absolutely critical for all Canadians, and arguably the most important for our generation. We’re a generation growing up in a world undergoing rapid changes and trends — income inequality, rapid technological revolution and globalization, climate change, [to name] some examples – and we need a government that’s going to work with us to face these trends and the challenges we face such as employment, the rising costs of living in the city, affordable housing and childcare. The best shot at being able to pursue our own dreams and face these challenges is to get out there and vote for a new government.
Featured image from Percy / CC BY