By Robert Mackenzie
Students should have an easier time finding a place to cast their ballots in the upcoming federal election.
From Oct. 5-8 there will be a voting office on campus that will allow students to vote for their home, or current ridings.
“We’ve been trying to find new ways to facilitate the vote,” said Nathalie de Montigny, an Elections Canada spokesperson. “We’re always hoping to make voting more accessible.”
In the 2011 federal election, only 39 per cent of people aged 18-24 cast a vote.
Denise Hammond, president of the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), hopes that this new option will generate an increase in youth voting. “Having a poll on campus is a conversation starter,” Hammond said. “If you start to vote when you’re younger you’ll continue to vote throughout your years.”
The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day in Ryerson’s student centre and will be equipped with pamphlets, information and voting registration services.
Hammond said CESAR was contacted by Elections Canada to find a space on campus, advertise the polls and fill positions in the voting office.
Students who use the on-campus poll will be voting by special ballot, which means that they would fill the ballot by writing out the name of their chosen candidate. In order to vote, students will need photo ID with a current address, or a piece of mail with a current address along with their student card.
Hammond says that having a poll in the student centre could help commuters in particular.
“Being able to get home in their [riding] can be challenging. If they have assignments and homework it can be tough to get in to vote,” she said.
Raheel Sultan, a first-year business management student, commutes from Markham and says he could see himself using the on-campus poll.
“I spend most of my time at Ryerson,” Sultan said. “This is a chance for people to know where to go. To not have the hassle of looking it up.”
Beth O’Rourke, a fourth-year English student, says that going out to vote is a “pain in the ass.”
“I normally don’t vote because I don’t know where to go. So this will help students,” O’Rourke said.
These voting offices will be available on 39 other campuses across the country, including U of T and York. De Montigny said that if they work well, they would probably be added to more campuses in the next election.
Ryerson political science professor Tracey Raney said she believes that this new initiative could make it easier for people to vote, but is concerned that the changes in the federal government’s Fair Elections Act passed last year will lower youth voter turnout even more.
“For students who live in residence where their driver’s license matches the address of their parents’ home address and not their current address, this is a particularly acute problem,” Raney said in an email.
“Since they are no longer able to use the [Voter Information Cards] to prove their identity, there is a big concern that this law will drive the student vote down even further than where it already is.”
The parties (on education)
The Liberals are proposing a $1,000 tax benefit for education, which is normally paid out of pocket. In addition, they’re also looking to spend more on First Nations education with an eventual $2.6 billion investment.
This long-term plan will begin with an immediate $515 million investment upon election. The Liberals are also looking to put $1 billion into direct family financial aid for higher education.
The Conservative party is aiming their educational programming at educational savings plans and are looking to increase federal grants targeting these plans.
The party is promoting an increase in “human capital” by looking to improve post-secondary education.
Like the Green Party, the Conservatives also want to extend the interest-free period of student debt by eight months.
The Green Party is looking to actively reduce the cost of tuition rather than offer money to students. By 2020, the Green Party plans to abolish tuition — beginning with lower-income Canadians. As well, any existing or future debt above $10,000 would be eliminated.
Their goal is to increase federal student grants by 25 per cent and to eliminate interest from student debt for two years after graduation.
In the classroom, the Green Party is promoting hands-on teaching.
The NDP believe everyone should be educated to better the job market. They’re campaigning to make education more affordable, specifically for those eyeing small business work.
The NDP also want to give interns the same workplace protections as other contracted staff members to further enhance their support of small businesses.
Over the next four years, the NDP have promised to create 40,000 jobs, paid-internships and co-op placements for young people with a $200 million investment.