With the candidate fields now set for the municipal elections across British Columbia, a group is trying to raise the awareness of younger candidates seeking office. The Forum for Millennial Leadership (FML) is hosting a conference in Vancouver on Tuesday to encourage more young people to seek elected office.
A study commissioned by FML found that only around a dozen of the 155 mayors and councillors currently serving in Metro Vancouver are under the age of 40. That same study also found only 26 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe candidates their age are taken seriously.
“This municipal election is a change cycle, and people of all ages are ready to vote for younger representatives. The time is now for millennials to step up, take leadership, and claim their place at the table,” said FML founder Gavin Dew.
“Our conference is an effort to move the needle by showing that millennials aren’t just the next generation of leaders. They are already leading in every sector, but they are drastically underrepresented in government at every level.”
One of the panels will focus on young candidates who will be running in the upcoming municipal election.
“I’ve sent a lot of letters, signed a lot of petitions. It has just gotten to the point where I feel I need to take action more than just signing the petitions and sending letters,” said Burnaby city council candidate Claire Preston.
“I think it is really important to have a lot of diversity including younger people. A lot of younger people are more tuned in to recent research in many different fields and maybe aren’t as stuck in their presumptions.”
Preston, who is 31 years old and is running as an independent, comes from the left wing of the political spectrum. She says that people feel more motivated to vote when they see themselves reflected in the candidates, including age or race.
“I personally feel a lot of what millennials and other people feel is that their apathy comes from being told our parents’ generation is the most powerful and the most numerous and a lot of us have felt powerless for a long time because of that. I think a lot of us are starting to realize we are the kids of the Baby Boomers and we have strong numbers and strong voices. They taught us a lot about valuing ourselves.”
Surrey city council candidate Trevor Halford will be joining Preston on the panel on Tuesday. The 37-year-old decided to run for elected office to address the issue of young people struggling to afford to raise a family in an increasingly expensive province.
“You have so many young families looking for a place to raise their families and I think it is essential that we have elected officials who understand some of the issues that young people are facing,” Halford said. “It is not easy right now, raising a young family in any part of British Columbia. There is so much opportunity and also so much challenge.”
Halford says one of the mistakes that have been made in the past by political parties is putting young candidates in unwinnable positions. This often happens in provincial and federal politics where first-time candidates get put into ridings that a party has historically not done well in.
“When you get really good young candidates who have really good ideas and really good energy, there is a tendency to put them in positions where they will not succeed,” Halford said. “I think parties are now getting more involved and recognizing that this is a problem.”