Saturday, April 25, 2015

How Progressives Can Engage Young Canadians in the Election Campaign

When Joe Oliver made his outrageous statement about leaving Harper's granddaughter's generation to pay for the Con's revenue killing tax policies, he only said it because he thought he could get away with it.

Because he knows, like we all do, that a lot of young Canadians don't bother to vote.

And it is fashionable in this aging country to blame the young for that troubling democratic deficit.

But as the crusty Globe editorialists point out, all political parties must also share the blame for not making a serious effort to appeal to them, or involve them in the political process 

Much has been made of the fact that the new federal budget is craftily geared by the Harper government to appeal to specific segments of the voting population. Seniors are getting all kinds of goodies, some designed specifically for their age group and others that are available to all, but which will (nudge nudge wink wink) benefit them the most.

Left off the gravy train are young people. Why? Because they are way less likely to cast a vote than older people are, and they don’t make up as large a share of the population as they used to. By being disengaged, they have now become conveniently ignorable, not just by the government but by the opposition parties, too.

So it is, as I have pointed out many times, a vicious circle.

Left off the gravy train are young people. Why? Because they are way less likely to cast a vote than older people are, and they don’t make up as large a share of the population as they used to. By being disengaged, they have now become conveniently ignorable, not just by the government but by the opposition parties, too.

Which not only favours the Cons because they want as few people to vote, and most young people are progressive. It is tragic for the young, and dangerous for the future of our battered democracy.

The terrible downside to this precision campaigning is that it is training young people not to participate in democracy. We know from the data that young Canadians who don’t vote now probably won’t vote later in life, and yet the message the under-25 crowd is getting in this election is, Your ballot is not needed.

And it couldn't be more depressing.

But the good news is, it doesn't have to be that way. Because as I have also pointed out, I saw with my own eyes what happened in Scotland during the independence referendum...

Where the YES side and the Scottish National Party (SNP) were able to involve young people in the political process, and get them to vote, in numbers never seen before.

And after the referendum most of those young people stayed with the SNP, and have helped make it so popular that it and its leader Nicola Sturgeon could actually form the next British government, in a coalition with the Labour Party. 

And with its anti-austerity and left-wing policies change the face of British politics.  

And the main ways the SNP were able to recruit so many young people were the following:

(1) They lowered the voting age to 16 as they now doing for those voting for the Scottish Parliament. 

Because the sooner you get them voting, the greater the chance they will keep on voting.

(2) By using social media in new and creative ways to reach out to them, by holding small grass roots meetings in the places they hang out. And making them feel like their views counted.

(3) By creating a movement, with a vision of a new kind of society, rather than a mere political organization. Because for a number of reasons, ranging from a distrust of authority to identity politics, young people today are more attracted to movements than they are to political parties.

More attracted to a bold progressive vision, than the petty haggling over smaller issues, or the old style of ward heeler politics. 

As this report from the Broadbent Institute recently pointed out.(PDF)

Due to the differences in attitudes between young and older Canadians, the mobilization of a large number of young voters during the 2015 federal election could transform the Canadian electorate and change the types of issues that are talked about on the campaign trail. Putting forth a bold vision to appeal to young people could be the key to ushering a new and progressive era of Canadian politics.

And in Scotland so successful have the SNP been in recruiting young people with their bold vision, that they are now using them to reach out to older voters.

As you can see in this SNP video...

Which is not only a good idea, it is also something we need to do here, because as the Globe points out, older Canadians are the growing demographic:

Back in the 80s, people over 65 made up 10 per cent of the population. Today, they make up 16 per cent – one in six. And, for the first time, there are now more Canadians aged 55-64 than there are aged 15-24. Thirty years ago, the younger cohort was twice the size of the older one.

And the older they are the more they vote for the Cons.

But to me, the main lesson of all of this is that if it can be done in Scotland, it can be done here. 

And the best way we can inspire more younger and older Canadians to vote for progressive parties is to turn the next election into a movement to save Canada.

Like this one...

Because that is what the next election is really all about. 

Not about who is going to get the biggest slice of the tax pie, or the niggling over the slight differences between the progressive parties.

But how can we get rid of the ghastly Con regime and it's monstrous leader, who are KILLING our country.

And as I keep repeating it really is a question of going big or going home.

I've got a few ideas to share with you, and I would be interested in hearing yours.

But right now all I want to say is, don't write young people off. Engage them.

And the future will belong to us...

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  1. I firmly believe that Education begins at home! Parents need to instill in their children that we are all human and no one is any better than their neighbour. When I see some of the TV programs that are on for young kids, I am in total disbelief how they talk and treat one another.......shocked sometimes, actually.

    Children Learn What They Live! ........very inspiring prose.

    I was also inspired by the turnout of young people in Scotland and continue to follow what is happening there.

    Canada needs more like Brigette to engage young people to get out and VOTE!

    1. hi Kathleen...yes you're right education should begin in the home. Unfortunately however too many parts are too busy or too ignorant to teach their kids anything. If you think that TV is bad you should see some of the video games these days. And all of that conspires to distract young people from the political process. It's a complex problem, but as I pointed out in the post, there are very simple steps new can take to get more young people to vote...

  2. I have a couple of problems with your blog today,, I'd like a clarification of what you define as 'goodies' for seniors..being one, I paid attention, and not being part of the 1%, whatever age that may prove to be, I saw no benefits at all..if anything, Harper's insidious slide towards forcing people to work til they drop seems rather anti-senior to me...
    As for the Scots supporting the lowering of the voting age..good idea in some respects, but in this country, unlike Scotland, a 16 year old is still subject to his/her parents' rules and regs, not to say influence..unlike Scotland, where 16 year olds are pretty much considered adults. I think parental influence and pressure re voting might hamper the ability of a 16 year old to vote on the basis of knowledge or experience The one thing that a 16 might have going for them is that they are more aware of what is going on because they are still in school and learning....hopefully...
    I think that seniors wind up being much maligned by the young, who seem to throw around statistics of voting patterns as if all seniors were rabid rightwing yahoos..not at all the case, at least here in BC.
    When I was involved in politics in Vancouver, I doubt if any of the people who volunteered were under constituency offices, etc. but the people that seemed to be running the reelection campaigns were all very young...odd, that...but it definitely explained to me why those of us who were in the trenches, phoning leafleting etc were treated with condescension by those who 'ran' the offices... although seniors are stereotyped as drooling dementia-laden idiots with no purpose other than to suck up resources and keep the Right in power, it isn't true, never has been true, and instead of whingeing about how all the boomers have all the jobs and there is nothing left for the younger people, I'd look to when all those senior people started out..just like anyone 25 and younger..and who, in fact, supported the progressive side of politics. And still does, in the face of depressing election after depressing election, when the Right manages to slither in no matter how hard we work to change that...
    I will say one thing...seniors vote, and young people don't, whatever the excuse may be..and we don't all vote for Cons..full stop.

    1. hi mizdarlin...I didn't call them goodies, the reporter who wrote the story did. And since in my work I meet many poor seniors I realize that many are not rich. But in general figures show the current crop of seniors is relatively well off, compared to others.
      As for the sixteen year olds in Scotland I assure you they are very similar to the ones here. Just as charming or annoying and with horrible tastes in music ;)
      But if you take a chance on them while they are still in school and open to learning you might be surprised what they are capable of doing. If you give them a chance they will rise to the occasion.
      Finally I think you're bit over sensitive. I find that older people are far more critical of young people that they are of seniors. They are the most progressive generation ever, and a look at any poll will show you that the over 65 demographic supports the Cone more than any other group. But what I also wanted to get across is that there are ways to reach them. And just like nobody can connect with a young person better than their peers, who better to communicate with the seniors who support the Cons better than their peers? So making YouTubes for other seniors to see seems to me to be an idea that we could use here. That's all I'm interested in, bridging the generations and getting as many to vote progressive...

      P.S. I can see you are going to be real grumpy senior... ;)

  3. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Ditto Mzdarlin from the other end of the country.

    I'm a senior (I hate labels but I suppose "progressive" would describe me best) and have always been involved in community development as a volunteer as have most of my friends. Self-employed throughout my professional life, my financial situation has never been as precarious as it has become under the Harper government. There was nothing in the Harper pseudo budget for me and I wasn't expecting anything. I was, however, hoping to see more money for the things that matter most to me, education, health and community support.

  4. hi anon...I know quite a few very progressive seniors and I enjoy their stories of past struggles. And as I have pointed out when young and old joined hands during the student's strike in Quebec two years ago it was one of the most inspiring sights I have ever seen...

  5. Is politics broken?

  6. Is the TFSA or RRSP better?

  7. the people including the recently retired police chief of Toronto are moving on. The cons can no longer suck the Justice Industrial Complex for sustinance.

  8. Anonymous6:57 PM

    Foul soup I say...