Candidates forum organized by high schooler engages students in political process
DARTMOUTH – All four candidates in the riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour were at a forum at Prince Andrew High School on Tuesday, touting their party’s platforms to a crowd of students who aren’t even eligible to vote yet.
Candidates were given a chance to address the students in the school’s auditorium, then answered questions in small groups during the lunch hour.
“This was the best time to get our students engaged in federal politics, right before the federal election,” said forum organizer, Keshav Paliwal.
The Grade 12 student considers himself politically engaged and he wanted to make sure fellow students felt the same way. With help from his school and teachers, he organized the event, which included special guests Joel Plaskett, Mayor Mike Savage and several MLAs.
“Most students will be able to vote in the next few years so I think there isn’t a better time than now to engage them and inform them on how our political process works,” Paliwal said.
“So when it comes to when they can actually vote, they’ll be comfortable with it and be familiar.”
The last federal election in 2011 saw a 38.8 per cent turnout rate for voters under the age of 24.
By reaching students early, before they’re eligible to vote, it’s hoped that turnout rate will improve.
“I do agree that this generation is very engaged but they’re engaged in different aspects of society,” said Timothy Halman, a history and political science teacher at the school.
“As an educator, as a civics educator, I want to try to bring it back to this very perennial issue of political engagement: being aware of what the parties stand for and being aware of how our system works.”
It appears to have worked, with some students crediting the forum for giving them new perspective. Armed with new information about each of the candidates, students headed to the polls in a mock election.
“I hadn’t really heard about the politicians a lot recently. That really explained to me what they’re doing,” said Grade 10 student Heidi Majcan after she cast her ballot.
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