Alberta youths participate in largest-ever Student Vote campaign

Alberta youths participate in largest-ever Student Vote campaign
WATCH: They're not old enough to vote in this provincial election, but that isn't stopping Calgary students from casting a ballot. Jill Croteau explains.

Legally, their vote doesn’t count, but that hasn’t stopped them from demonstrating democracy.

Students at Calgary’s Tom Baines School have spent weeks researching and learning all about the party platforms.

Grade 6 student Zain Badawy said he wanted to find out which party platform resonated most with him.

“I was looking for what they would offer to us kids and see if they will give us a positive change,” Badawy said.

Student Vote at Tom Baines School.
Student Vote at Tom Baines School. Jill Croteau

Many of them said they made up their own minds and weren’t influenced by their parents.

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Grade 6 student Avery Lennox said she didn’t want to reveal her choices to the rest of her family.

“My parents don’t talk to me about political stuff,” Lennox said.

“They didn’t tell me who they’re voting for and even if I asked they wouldn’t because they want me to have my own opinion.”

Sample ballot at Student Vote
Sample ballot at Student Vote. Jill Croteau

Despite being years away from actually marking a ballot that counts, kids like Grade 9 student Brooklyn Billinghurst say they’re very politically engaged.

“It’s our dinner conversation. We don’t talk about our day; we talk about politics,” Billinghurst said.

“My brothers and I are left-leaning and my parents are more right-leaning or conservative because that’s what they grew up with, but we are starting to see what NDP and Liberals can do.”

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Others, like Farooq Qureshi, are guided by real-life experiences.

“My dad works in the oil and gas industry. He’s fortunate to still have a job but told us extensively how his friends have been laid off.

“Calgary unemployment is crazy so it led me to find the party that shows that they’re going to make an impact on saving people and finding new jobs,” Qureshi said.

Teacher Lori Hogue works with students.
Teacher Lori Hogue works with students. Jill Croteau

Their teacher, Lori Hogue, said there was an obvious point of conversation around how this younger generation is viewing the election campaign.

“This year what students are talking about is their shock at how negative the party leaders are against each other,” Hogue said.

“They are asking, ‘Why are there signs that have Rachel Notley’s face crossed out? Is that part of an election campaign? Why is that okay for adults to do that?'”

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The non-partisan organization Student Vote organized and provided teaching tools for close to 170,000 students across Alberta to take part in the mock vote.

Results will be revealed April 16 on election night.