Student group says NDP leadership candidates need to inspire youth to vote
Members of NDP Concordia, the party’s on-campus student group, held a leadership candidate meet-and-greet at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Bishop Street on Saturday, Aug. 26. The group organized the event in the hopes of engaging students in the party’s leadership race and giving them the opportunity to speak with the candidates before Sunday afternoon’s debate.
To encourage students to voice their opinions and eventually cast their votes in October’s NDP leadership election, the group has remained active over the summer. Members said they have continued to grow in popularity by focusing their efforts on producing social media content — such as live-tweeting Sunday’s leadership debate — and planning events to help the Concordia community become more familiar with the candidates.
With the NDP leadership election rapidly approaching, the student group is also seeking to lift the youth voter turnout.
“Youth participation needs to be improved,” said Patrick Quinn, NDP Concordia’s vice-president of external affairs. “We have the power to make decisions in our democracy. We should be using it as a tool to promote a Canada that we want.”
According to Elections Canada, voter participation for Canadians aged 18 to 24 surged from 38.8 per cent in 2011 to 57.1 per cent in 2015. Despite the large increase, the 18 to 24 age group has the lowest voter turnout of all the nation’s demographics.
“There is a disconnect,” Quinn said. “[It is] caused primarily because parties tend to focus less on youth issues.”
This year’s NDP leadership race has featured one youth-centred debate. However, it took place significantly early in the race, in March, long before candidate Jagmeet Singh had entered. While NDP Concordia believed the youth debate was beneficial, they mentioned that bad timing could contribute to young voters not feeling like valid members of the electorate.
However, in terms of engaging youth in politics and focusing on issues that matter to students, one leadership candidate stands out from the rest. Niki Ashton, the Churchill—Keewatinook Aski MP, prides herself on being a millennial. Much of her campaign has been focused on youth and student issues, such as providing free postsecondary education.
“Inequality has different faces in our country, but one face [is the] intergenerational inequality and, particularly, the kind of marginalization the millennials are facing,” Ashton told The Concordian. “If we tackle some of these key areas […] we would be making a huge difference in terms of bringing up the standard of living of young people.”
Ashton has also put forward the idea of creating a national student advocate position to work with LGBTQ+ youth in particular. She told The Concordian she recognizes “so many young LGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately affected by mental illness and suicide” and that “it’s a national issue” requiring proper leadership.
While NDP Concordia will not collectively endorse a single candidate, Quinn expressed that Ashton’s impression on Canadian youth is undeniable. However, he also pointed out that he believes leadership candidate Guy Caron’s policies would be more beneficial to students and easier to implement than Ashton’s proposed elimination of post-secondary education fees.
For more information about NDP Concordia, meet the team at the Concordia Clubs Fair on Sept. 6 or follow them on social media.