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Politics

Millennials, Gen Z could sway federal election result, says SMU advocate

WATCH: Millennials and Generation Z voters make up the majority of this year’s voter block. Jesse Thomas visited Saint Mary’s University to determine what the issues are this election from the students' perspective.

The numbers show that young Canadians hold the power to sway the outcome of the 2019 federal election.

As Millennials and Gen Z make up the majority of the voting block this time around — and if previous numbers are any indication — we should see more youth and students show up to cast their ballots this year.

Bryn de Chastelain, vice president of academic and advocacy with the Saint Mary’s University Student’s Association, says they are running a “Get Out To Vote” campaign to make sure that students are in the know about the issues and how they can register to vote.

READ MORE: Canada election: Halifax

“The Canadian Alliance of Students Associations – which we’re a part of – put out a poll in March that shows 93 percent of post-secondary students are planning on voting in this year’s election,” de Chastelain said. “So we are trying our best to make sure students are engaged in political issues and willing to use their voice at the polls.”

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According to Stats Canada, the number of voters aged 18 to 24 who cast their ballots in 2015, increased by 18.3 percentage points to 57.1 percent, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

The number of voters aged 25 to 34 also increased by 12.3 percent in 2015.

Calgary students encouraged to vote in 2019 federal election
Calgary students encouraged to vote in 2019 federal election

It’s why some student leaders on campus say the political parties have to pay attention to what the younger voters are saying and take notice of what they care about.

“We’re starting to see political parties listen to us and our ideas and we are becoming a real focus in this year’s campaign,” de Chastelain said.

On Tuesday night, SMUSA held an all-candidates debate, then on Wednesday former astronaut and Liberal candidate Marc Garneau joined Halifax candidate Andy Fillmore for a campaign rally, where Garneau spoke about issues facing students like tuition debt and climate change.

READ MORE: Liberals, Conservatives in close race as Green support drops 4 points: Ipsos poll

Students here, it seems, are engaged – even first-time voters – who say events on campus like the debates only help get students’ attention.

“I don’t know how well the students are engaged but definitely having events coming to the university is really important,” said student and first-time voter Sarah Little.

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“Because it kind of gets people to be like ‘hey, what’s going on?’ but yeah I’m excited to be apart of the voting and kind of getting to understand a little bit more about politics.”

There will be other election events held on campus, like an upcoming all-candidates meet and greet, but when it comes to the issues for the students, they seem to vary.

“We’ve seen that students are caring about job creation, climate change, and they care about the affordability of post-secondary institutions,” de Chastelain said.

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“And so I’m very excited to see how many students can get out and vote about these issues.”

READ MORE: Some Nova Scotia political leaders ready to campaign in federal election

SMU Young Conservatives president Cameron Valardo says affordability and taxes are top of mind for him.

“The biggest issue for me is being able to retain an income. I’m a strong believer in low taxation,” said Valardo. “That’s why I am a believer in the Conservative Party.”

Kyle Morton with the SMY Young Liberals says his main concern is the environment and climate change, but he doesn’t want to see any extreme measures made that will affect or alienate a certain group of people.

“I really support having a kind of balanced approach that looks at the environment and looks at the economy together, that takes care of everyone but not at the expense of anyone,” Morton said.

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Elections Canada will have voting stations set up at Saint Mary’s University campus, allowing students to not only register to vote but also cast their ballot on election day.