By Samantha Durnford, Assistant News Editor
Megan Leslie says members of parliament don’t waste their time on campus because people under 30 don’t vote. She says there’s something wrong with this picture.
Leslie visited Dalhousie on Tuesday to discuss how students can effectively engage MPs on pressing social issues. In the question and answer period, she began to discuss the problem with student engagement and why MPs may not seem to care about student issues.
“I’m not going to waste my time trying to get votes from people under 30 because people under 30 don’t vote,” says Leslie. “My campaign manager is going to tell me to ‘stop going to Dalhousie campus because you’re wasting your time. You should go to seniors homes.’”
She says it’s like the chicken and the egg dilemma. Which came first, young people disengaging with government, or elected officials giving up on people under 30?
“It’s hard. I’ve met with this incredible student activist here on this campus who’s doing incredible things to mobilize this community on all kinds of issues, and so engaged. And he didn’t vote in the last election,” says Leslie. “There’s this strange thing happening at this moment in time where young people are disengaging in the political process because it’s alienating and because we aren’t represented,”
“We get away with that shit because no one is listening. The things that happen in the House of Commons would make your toes curl,” she says.
Emily Smith van Beek, Vice President of the Dalhousie Political Society, says she’s upset with the statement from Leslie.
“I think it’s accurate that students don’t care or vote, however, it’s disappointing seeing Megan Leslie, member of the NDP, make a comment like that because their party represents really caring about students,” she says. “We’re the future and the only way to get students engaged is to be a presence in their lives and because there will always be that one person that will become involved and influence other young people to do the same.”
She says that our political structure will crumble if elected officials give up on people our age and thinks that it’s an MPs responsibility to seek out students, not the other way around.
“I think that one voice can influence a lot of people and I think that change can be heard,” says Smith van Beek. “University campuses are proof of mobilization and how word spreads, so MPs should take advantage of that and try harder to get students involved in order to influence political participation.”
Leslie wants to see young people more involved with politics and doesn’t like the fact that MPs ignore people under 30.
There are five women under the age of 40 in the House of Commons and two men under the age of 30,” says Leslie. “There should be some people in their 20s, because we pass bills on pension changes unanimously and we don’t talk about post secondary education and unemployment. These issues are dead in the House of Commons.”
She suggests writing letters and that these letters, even though it seems one letter might not matter, but they do get read. She says she’s seen MPs and parties change their mind, including herself and her party, due to feedback.
She also says students should get more involved in order to get better representation.
“We need to look at who we’re electing and who is running,” she says.