We are not the eight per cent

Government and student groups push to engage students in municipal election

In the last municipal election, eight per cent of eligible voters between the ages of 20-29 cast their ballots. Compared with 37% overall turnout, young people in Halifax were poorly represented.

In the lead-up to this election, there has been a push not only to encourage young peple to vote, but to inform them about how municipal politics affect their day-to-day lives.

“It is a challenge in any level of government to reach out and engage youth in elections, and hopefully this time around we can have some initiatives that will appeal to a younger audience,” says Adam Richardson, a spokesperson for the city of Halifax.

The city has turned to social media to pique student interest in the election.  A new campaign, Halifax Votes Because, challenges voters to submit a video about why they plan on voting, and to submit it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

The campaign has received many responses, but there continues to be a lack of awareness across much of the city that there is an election coming up.

Richardson says many students are unsure if they are eligible to vote, due to changes in address, out-of-province hometowns and summers spent away from Halifax.

Not sure if you can vote? Visit Halifax.ca/election and click Voter Information, or call (902) 490-8683. 

“There was a lot of hype around the federal election, and students were able to easily make the connection, whereas municipal is blurrier about which issues fall under the municipal umbrella as opposed to provincial or federal,” says Amina Abawajy, vice president academic and external for the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU).

“We are campaigning to show that student issues are municipal election issues.”

The DSU has partnered with the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students to reach out to students on campuses all over the province. Their main initiative, Generation Vote, focuses on five key issues: Affordable housing, fair wages, food security, arts and culture and public transportation.

Generation Vote’s goal is to help students understand how municipal politics can have a direct impact on their lives. These five issues relate directly to realities that many students face each day.

Charlotte Kiddell, chairperson of CFS-NS, gives the example of a lack of food security at the University of King’s College.

“I was tabling recently at King’s, right outside of the cafeteria, and these students came out and their bags were all full of fruit that they’d stolen from the cafeteria,” says Kiddell.

“So I told them ‘students need food security so that they don’t have to just steal food from their cafeteria to get by. This is not what food security looks like for students.’ They wanted to talk about food security and pledge to vote for candidates who would prioritize food security so they don’t have to steal bananas from the cafeteria.”

Advance polls open on Oct. 8, and election day is Oct. 15. E-voting is available from Oct. 4- 13. Have questions about voting? Contact the Halifax Elections voter helpline at (902) 490-8683. 

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Eleanor Davidson

Eleanor is the Gazette's News Editor.

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