It’s that time again.
Canadians are thinking about whom they’ll vote for in the upcoming federal election on Oct. 21. According to Elections Canada, there are 27.2 million Canadians who will have the power to make a difference, should they choose to vote.
But there is one generation that has the potential to decide the future leader: millennials.
Millennials will make up the largest voting bloc and will have the opportunity to bring significant representation to the polls. According to Abacus, a research and strategy firm that specializes in voting trends, individuals born between 1980 and 2000 can have a significant impact on the results of the federal election if they choose to vote.
“It’s clearly a very important demographic,” Peggy Nash, a political commentator and former NDP MP told Global News, “not only because of their numbers but because of the decisions that they make. The choices that they make will affect the future of the country for many years to come.”
According to Elections Canada, past trends from previous federal elections in Canada have shown low turnouts from young Canadians. Researchers have found that newly eligible youth were voting at lower rates than they had in the past, and more recent generations of youth are voting less as they age.
“I’ve talked to people in their 40s, 50s and they had never voted before, and I think it’s shocking,” Nash said.
“It’s such a small price to pay for sustaining our democracy.”
However, the last federal election in Canada threw the trends off. In 2015, voter turnout for the Canadian federal election for people aged 18 to 24 went up from 38.8 per cent to 57.1 per cent, in contrast with the trends we’ve seen since the 1990s, according to Elections Canada.
“I expect voter turnout overall will go down again,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political expert from the University of Toronto.
“I think last election was exceptional because we’d had three elections with the Harper government and there was a lot of appetite for change.”
Political parties, however, know they need to draw in the younger vote. Several of their campaign pledges are obviously designed for those in the millennial demographic. For example, the Green Party has promised free university tuition. The NDP says it would remove interest from student loans. The Conservatives would make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get mortgages. And the Liberals are offering breaks on student loans and a boost to student grants.
Nash says she’s “not under the illusion that everyone who goes out to vote will be brilliantly informed about every party policy,” but there are multiple ways to reach young voters.
“The way to reach young people is obviously through social media. But I’m still a firm believer in face-to-face organizing.
“And I think when parties engage young organizers on the ground to go out and meet up with other young voters to engage with them, talk with them about their concerns, their priorities … (they can) help them understand that their choice can make a difference and that they do have a real choice — that the parties are different and do stand for different goals.”
Elections Canada is also trying to get out the younger voters, setting up polling stations at 115 post-secondary campuses across Canada between Oct. 5 and 9.
With the millennial vote being so important this time around, we can expect to see all parties trying to figure out how to win those votes.