Elections in recent history have told the same story again and again: Young people aren’t voting.
Sure, some of us are. Many others are attempting to bring in more of their peers through vote mobs and other social media pressures, yet to date the evidence is that these efforts have been a disappointing flop.
The occupy movements were a brief glimmer of hope, but it remains unclear whether these protests have truly engaged the disaffected youth or just tapped into those who were already involved.
Progressive parties know that the next generations shares their values of equality and inclusiveness, yet they have failed to date to truly connect.
Two recent stories only further the disenfranchisement.
This weekend the Liberal Party of Canada held their Renewal conference in Ottawa. The conference is meant to reverse the tide of bad luck that has befallen the party over the past decade.
While some big ideas were put forward to revolutionize the internal structure of the party, the policy resolutions mostly avoided discussing real issues in favour of commitments to form committees to study issues. As an example, the environment was absent from the proposed resolutions, while a plan to develop a national food strategy was passed.
One of the failed resolutions was to study whether Canada should seek to abolish the monarchy and replace it with an elected Canadian head of state. This motion was put forward by the party’s youth wing and Liberal Youth Vice-President Sean Southerland argued vociferously in support of the motion
“No Canadian can ever aspire to hold the position,” argued Liberal youth vice-president Sean Sutherland, who presented the motion. He urged delegates to be bold as they were Saturday night when they adopted opening up the party to a new class of “supporters”.
“Instead it has been historically held by an unelected monarch who lives an ocean away,” said Mr. Sutherland.
He noted that Liberals are not strangers to controversial positions, saying that in the 1990s their debates about legalizing same-sex marriage were dismissed as not important as this monarchy resolution is being today.
“That didn’t stop young Liberals then. This won’t stop us now,” vowed Mr. Sutherland.
62 per cent of delegates ended up voting against the youth-led initiative. While many argued either in favour of Canada’s historical ties or that the issue was too divisive, the most worrying issue was the following:
But what received the most applause and support were the delegate’s statements, who accused Liberal youth leaders of betraying the trust of other young Liberals.
Instead of talking about what is important to them and what truly affects their lives – “shrinking jobs,” post-secondary education and increase of aboriginal Canadians in jail – they chose this motion that can “only bring harm and ridicule to our party,” [delegate Ryan] Barber said.
There is nothing quite like the party elders talking down to the younger generation. Clearly the young Liberals are mistaken about what issues their supposed to be representing.
Imagine the controversy if people applauded when the chair of a women’s or First Nation’s caucus was chastised for not properly representing their constituents. If young people in the Liberal Party are dissatisfied with their current leadership or the resolutions put forward, I’m assuming the party has democratic means for them to be replaced.
But by approving of this attitude that young people should know their place, the Liberal delegates have shown their hands as intolerant and untrusting of younger people and their ideas.
The next story comes from Alberta NDP member Denny Holmwood who has accused the federal NDP of discriminating against young and unwaged party members.
The controversy comes from the registration process for the coming leadership convention. While all members will be able to vote for the next leader, many will want to attend the conference in person. The fees are set at $299 until the end of January and $349 afterward. These costs are prohibitive to many and the NDP has a long history of offering discounts to those who can’t afford them – typically the young and unemployed.
However, to reduce the number of potentially fraudulent registrations, the party is requiring youth and unwaged delegates to call a 1-866 number, which may only be available during Ontario business hours (9am to 5pm in Ontario is 6am to 2pm Vancouver).
With today’s connected youth, do we really want to be adding additional hurdles to their full participation? Conventions are a great chance to build connections and to rally new members into the party. The NDP should be seeking to encourage more young people to be attending the conference, not impeding their ability.
Please sign Denny’s petition to get the NDP to change their position.
I would rather see more people sneak in at a discounted rate than anyone be turned away by difficulties.