Students follow similar path as electorate

NDP gets popular vote locally while Tories lead the way in nation-wide democracy exercise

Much like their parents, students in the Southern Interior favour the New Democratic Party as a representative, if a recent mock vote is any indication.

NDP Alex Atamanenko secured about half the votes from students at 18 schools within the Southern Interior that participated in Student Vote, an educational federal election for up-and-coming voters that aims to convince young people to participate in democracy.

Among the schools that took part, J. L. Crowe Secondary, Glenmerry Elementary, MacLean Elementary, Fruitvale Elementary and Salmo Secondary had their kids cast ballots.

“For us, it’s more the process,” said Grade 5 Glenmerry teacher Al Defoe. “I think they learned a lot about how it works, they got to vote, which was the key idea.”

While most Greater Trail schools selected an NDP MP, nearly half the grades 4-7 Glenmerry students who participated chose the Liberal Party.

“You got to remember, we actually had speeches and kids presenting arguments so the Liberal candidate was very strong and was very prepared,” said Defoe, who along with Grade 5/6 teacher Denise Mauro organized the Trail elementary school election.

“He did a lot of work, had a very convincing speech and wore a shirt and tie, so that’s what it was about, it was about the candidate.”

Unlike their role models who chose Conservative candidate Stephen Hill as second best in the riding, with 10 per cent fewer votes, students selected Green Party representative

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Bryan Hunt as the runner up.

The student program, offered through Elections Canada, encouraged children to research party platforms and design mock campaigns leading up to the general election. The mock vote happened days before adults headed to the polls and ran like a real election with official ballot boxes and assigned staff.

Half a million young Canadians under the voting age cast ballots as part of the program’s fourth federal parallel election, which for the third year predicted the winner.

On the national scale, students elected a Conservative-minority government and NDP opposition, compared to the actual Conservative-majority government selected by voters Monday night.

While the NDP won 113 seats – forming the official opposition for the third straight student election – the Green Party won five seats, a dramatic loss compared to the 41 they won in 2008.

“Traditionally the students have been quite idealistic but I think maybe it’s an indication of the change in the economic climate and the global economy, I think maybe kids are looking at things differently, too,” said Defoe, who waits to find out whether the adults made the best choice.

“It was a historic election, they’re usually boring but this was really interesting,” he said. “Two leaders resigned as a result, you got a new leader in for the Green party, a new opposition, I mean things really happened so it was exciting.”

The Southern Interior riding covers Salmo in the east to Princeton in the west and the U.S. border north to Kaslo, including Nelson.