By Keith Capstick
On Oct. 19 Ryerson students will be heading to the polls to vote in this year’s federal election and each of the major parties have their own unique approach to attract the youth vote, which could have a major impact in such a close race.
The Eyeopener previously reported that this year students will be able to cast their vote on campus regardless of where their home riding is. With casting your ballot no longer a hassle here are the ways each of these major parties are trying to wow you, and get you to care about them.
Ryerson politics and public administration professor, John Shields, says that due to how close the race has become, the parties are targeting specific subsets of voters, like students, to foster an advantage wherever they can because “every vote is going to count.”
The Green Party, the perennial underdog of Canadian politics, have taken a conventionally aggressive stance on education and particularly, student debt. Green leader Elizabeth May has promised that her educational end-goal is to abolish tuition fees by 2020. Given the Green’s usual fourth place standing they often have very adversarial positions to the other three major parties to give those looking for an alternative voting option a place to point their support. This in mind, the Greens aggressively target the youth vote and this election they’re also promising to eliminate any existing student debt over $10,000 for students currently in post-secondary school (like us). Their platform also includes increased spending on rail services and climate control, both issues which have been historically important to youth voters.
The Liberals have historically been the primary option for left-wing voters despite losing out on official opposition status in the last federal election. Justin Trudeau and his smile have steadily increased their youth-oriented promises as the race has tightened. The Liberals have proposed from the beginning a $1,000 tax benefit for education that is usually paid out-of-pocket. More recently Trudeau promised a freeze on interest rates on student debts until the student is making $25,000 per year in wage. They’re also looking to put $1 billion into family financial aid services targeting education. In short, the Liberals are looking to support students’ families from the onset where their NDP and Green opponents are looking to tackle students debt during, and after their education.
Shields says that the Liberals targeting financial aid for families is “not something that is going to help current students,” and is more set up to assist families in planning from a young age.
The Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have held office for the last ten years and are looking to extend that reign for four final years. The Harper government’s plan for education targets educational savings plans, and Harper has committed to invest federal grants into both parents and young people saving for their post-secondary career. The Tories have also committed to extending the interest-free period for students to pay back their debt by eight months. Fiscally the Harper government has been adamant about looking balance the federal budget and continue much of what they’ve been doing for the past decade.
The official opposition party is looking to improve upon what was one of the most successful federal elections in their history in 2011. Much of the challenge for the NDP is separating themselves on left side of the political spectrum from the Liberals in order to avoid splitting the vote opposed to the continuity of the Conservative government. NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, has had dedicated student-oriented platform points from the beginning of the race but has most recently turned up his student debt promises after to attract more youth attention. Originally the NDP were looking to provide 40,000 youth jobs and assure that all internships were fully paid, in addition to making intern workplace protection equal to that of full-time employees. More recently, Mulcair has launched his plan to tackle student debt committing to phasing out interest on student loans all together and adding $250 million to 74,000 new student grants.
Shields says that the new NDP policy is clearly targeting current students and is a representation of how much each individual vote matters in such a close race. But also added that, “it doesn’t really address the problem of, ‘Can you afford to go [to university] in the first place?’”
“They are trying to attack young voters,” said Shields.
These federal parties are attacking the youth vote in two ways: supporting families early on with financial aid and savings plans like the Liberals and Conservatives, or offering aid to those in post-secondary school now or finishing by providing support on student debt like the Green Party and the NDP.
Shields points to how close the race is this year as a reasoning for the heightened targeting of youth voters.
“There is a lot of targeting right now of particular voting populations,” said Shields. “This election is so close that every vote seems to really count and so I think there’s a special effort to identify these kinds of populations are target policies to them and attract those types of votes.”
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) president Andrea Bartlett said that the RSU is not taking a stance on any party in particular but she urges students to do their research and above all else make sure they vote.
“The most important thing for us is that students actually vote,” said Bartlett. “I think students have a tendency to vote for the leader … but it’s also important students that they do [the] research.”
At the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors meeting, on Sept. 30, directors voted in favour of changing their bylaws to create a Ryerson Student Representative Bodies Council. The “honourary” group will bring together representatives from the RSU, the Ryerson Commerce Society, the Ryerson Communication and Design Society, the Ryerson Engineering Students’ Society, the Ryerson Science Society and the Ryerson Arts Society.
Citing historical hostility between the union and other student societies, RSU President Andrea Bartlett said the council would be to “ensure that in the future, we’re working with each other and not against.”
RSU vice-president finance Obaid Ullah added that participation in the council, given that it won’t have any voting power, will be optional.
At the same meeting, RSU directors voted in favour of the hotly-debated topic of Microsoft Outlook versus Gmail.
The proposed motion said that “Directors have expressed concerns in accessibility and fluency of communication between staff, executive and directors due to IT issues with their RSU emails.”
At the meeting, some directors said they had almost missed many meetings due to barely checking their Outlook accounts — which would be fixed by using “formal Google calendar invites,” according to the motion.