Updated: Jun 2
June 1, 2020 by the Editorial Board
Political climates across borders are actively deteriorating. With republics failing to uphold democratic institutions, leaders compromising values to gain electoral favours, and increasingly violent protests, the established order of politics owes its future leaders an opportunity to pitch their vision.
Youth political participation cultivates engaged citizens for life. In the 2019 federal election, only 66% of eligible Canadians cast their ballots. The remaining 34% of the population, 12.7 million Canadians, had no say in the composition of the Canadian House of Commons and the election of the Prime Minister. The right to vote is a privilege, one that we are fortunate to enjoy in Canada. A democracy relies on its people to participate, and Canada desperately needs more citizens to vote. Encouraging interest in politics for young people leads to more aware and thoughtful future citizens, who then are more likely to participate in our democratic traditions.
At the moment, generations who don’t hold a stake in the future are deciding what that future will look like. We can yell as much as we want, but the power to directly change politics is not in our hands. We have no say in the destruction of the environment, how we handle debt and foreign policy, or what is right and what is wrong. A generation that lacks interest in the long term consequences of its decisions is stuck in a mindset focused on short term gains. Short term planning, however, is often unsustainable over time and eventually, the youth will be left to clean up the mess. Why are future’s largest stakeholders not involved in deciding what the future looks like?
Some say the youth are less experienced, sometimes immature, and lack resources, but young people already produce substantial informal political change. Following the Parkland school shooting in Florida just over two years ago, high school students launched Never Again and March For Our Lives, two movements that together gathered over a million protesters and led to various regional policy changes concerning firearms regulations. The same year, Greta Thunberg’s environmental advocacy brought her under the political spotlight and not only headlined international climate conventions, but also pressured lawmakers across the world to adopt environment-friendly platforms. In 2019, the School Strike for Climate Change movement brought over two million students out on the streets to peacefully advocate for climate action. Make no mistake, Generation Z already wields enormous political power, and with today’s rapid technological developments, the road of youth power can only go uphill.
As society begins to realize how youth involvement in politics is crucial for the democratic machine to function, it should award them with political powers and responsibilities. Now more than ever, young people are ready for the challenge. We care about both economics and the environment, we are committed to exterminating prejudice while pursuing justice, and we are the masters of technology and scientific innovations. Give young people a chance – the worst-case scenario is only an early beginning of our terms in office.
The Editorial Board consists of Kate O' Connor, Logan Wang, Alan Iturriaga ('20), Firinne Rolfe, Julia McDermott, and Marina Fabris ('20).