Times in Trail: Young voters remain disengaged at their own peril

There was one demographic severely lacking representation at the All Candidates forum.

Now that we’re heading into the final stretch of this marathon election campaign, one would hope there’s been enough time for everyone to get engaged.

Tuesday night at the Cominco Gym was another one of those opportunities. And for the 200 or so people who came out to listen to the candidates, they managed to get a better glimpse at the people offering to represent them in Parliament.

As expected the forum brought out people from all corners of the Greater Trail, many municipal leaders and concerned citizens.

However, there was one demographic severely lacking representation at the forum.

Granted many high school students took part in a forum earlier in the day, yet there was still a large portion of young voters absent Tuesday.

I spoke with one of the three or so people who appeared to be under 25 at the forum. He admitted it was somewhat disheartening to see a lack of young people at the forum.

He said while many of his friends like to complain about the state of our government, this was an opportunity missed to educate themselves rather than just sound off.

My only other sense of the pulse of the younger electorate is to talk to my college-aged daughter who admits many of her friends aren’t paying much attention to the campaign either.

That’s too bad.

I believe this election will have a profound impact on the direction of our country and no one is more affected by that than young voters.

They’re the ones who are facing growing bills for their education. They’re the ones that are facing the dim job prospects. They’re the ones who have pinned their hopes and dreams on a strong future for Canada.

Tuesday night was an opportunity for them to listen to what each party is proposing. And there was some discussion on tuition, skilled labour shortage, income inequality and job creation for young people.

Unfortunately with the latest Statistics Canada report highlighting that there are more seniors than people under the age of 15 in our country, the prospects that youth issues will be at the forefront of any election campaign in the next decade appear to be getting slimmer.

Which is why this election is the one to be heard, to voice an opinion, to stand up and be counted.

You don’t have to look far to see the power of the youth movement.

In Quebec, students rose up when their affordable post-secondary tuition was under threat and pretty much forced a provincial election on the issue.

I don’t have to send this message out to people my own age. Many of us have been through those times in our youth when we really didn’t care about politics or national issues.

Back then you simply got out of high school and, for many, went down the road and found a job somewhere and began building a life.

But it’s not that simple anymore. Education, inflation, accommodation and employment are now issues that impact 20-year-olds more than 50-year-olds.

Unfortunately the innocence of youth is something most political parties prey on. They know they can gloss over the usual topics when addressing youth and then move on to their political games over niqabs or a candidate’s hair.

There’s no denying wisdom comes with age but in this era of instant messaging and connected society, today’s youth is more knowledgeable and more engaged in conversation than at any point in our country’s history.

The tools are there to spread the word of the importance of this election. It’s up to that generation to use them.

They have the potential to dictate what type of country awaits them as they build a life.

My only hope is with all that ability to connect and converse at a touch of the finger, this message goes viral rather than another selfie from Kim Kardashian.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.

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