Home CommentaryOpinions Don’t call us kids: federal leaders and the youth vote

Don’t call us kids: federal leaders and the youth vote

by Laura Marchand September 22, 2015

If the economic debate taught us one thing, it’s how little they care

Let’s be honest: we have never been the target of political campaigning. We’ve never been the one the leaders crawl to for votes. We’ve never been wooed, never got promises, never handed anything more than a campaign sign. As the “youth vote”, we’ve often been glazed over in campaign speeches—and it was no different at The Globe and Mail’s economic debate.

Talking down to the youth vote. Photo taken from Flickr user United Steelworkers.

Talking down to the youth vote. Photo taken from Flickr user United Steelworkers.

Admittedly, perhaps we’ve marginalized ourselves. The apathy our age displays in politics is well-documented. Yet, watching the economic debate, a part of me was still listening for something, anything that would show my vote mattered to any of the men on-stage.

One thing became clear: it didn’t. My vote, where I was marking X, was secondary. I heard who they were aiming at—in fact, I knew them very well.

They were talking to my parents.

“I know that Canadians are worried about their jobs, and that’s what this election is about,” said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau. “Their jobs and the jobs that their kids are going to have.”

On the subject of environmental issues, Trudeau also said that “[Canada needs] to move in a responsible way that understands the future that we’re leaving to our kids.”

Later in the debate, Stephen Harper was opposing the idea of raising taxes to pay for some of the programs the NDP and the Liberals are proposing. He claimed that “those funds come right out of your paycheque. They come right out of the money you’re using to pay your mortgage, buy your clothes [and] fund your kids’ education.”

They were both talking about the issues that affect me, and probably affect you too: getting a job after university, the environment we are inheriting and the rising price of education. And yet, neither of them were actually speaking to us.

They were speaking to our parents. We are not lumped in with Canadian voters: as Trudeau put it, Canadians are worried about the jobs “their kids are going to have”. Harper warns parents about funding their kids’ education. Yet, neither of them said that young Canadians coming out of university can’t find skilled work in their field. Neither of them addressed that young Canadians are borrowing more to fund their own education.

Thomas Mulcair, to his credit, used finer language that actually seemed to address the  young Canadian population as something other than the Big Bad Millennial—but only in the context of student debt. But at least he acknowledged young Canadians are there as something other than an extension of our parents.

The rhetoric surrounding young voters is patronizing, insulting, and exploitative. Patronizing because we are constantly referred to as “children” and “kids,” despite being recipients of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Insulting, because we are not even addressed directly by the people we are supposed to be voting for. And finally, exploitative, because they are using the love of your parents as a political tool for votes—as if you need to prove you care about your child’s future by voting a certain way.

Is it any wonder young Canadians don’t feel excited to vote? Or is this a consequence of that apathy? Perhaps it’s a vicious circle without end—the youth vote doesn’t partake in voting due to the rhetoric, they don’t vote, they become a marginalized group in campaign strategy, the rhetoric gets worse.

It might be hard to find a political party that represents your interests—but if we want to be taken seriously, to be seen as more than just “kids,” then it’s time to fight for it.

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