Have your say and vote on E-Day

David Koroma, News Columnist

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This year, classes are starting in the middle of a 78-day federal election—the longest of our lifetime.

Most national polls show it being a close three-way race for government on Oct. 19, making student turnout as important as ever.

Will students use some of their spare time during September and October to read party platforms, listen to debates and engage in democracy?

One can only hope.

According to Elections Canada, only 39 per cent of registered young voters aged 18 to 24 cast a ballot in 2011. Turnout was higher at 45 per cent for voters aged 25 to 34. Though specific data for post-secondary students is unavailable, young people’s turnout is about 10 to 30 per cent less than the rest of the voting population.

A vast majority of university and college students belong to these two age groups. It’s important, I think, to realize the government is most responsive to those who elect them.

Politicians like to target the middle class, but what about those of us who hope to be the next generation of middle class citizens? If we’re already worse off than our parents were when they were our age, then what kind of middle class are we working toward?

Students face rising debt, dreams of home ownership and a real need for good, quality jobs. The future of the Canadian economy rests on our shoulders.

Instead of loudly, actively engaging in the political discourse, we too often fall into the old cycle of cynicism.

Because we think politicians don’t speak to our needs, we tune out the politicians. Then when they get elected, they don’t prioritize our needs because we didn’t vote for them.

We have the power to change this cycle.

It really doesn’t matter whom you vote for. Showing that young people are increasingly engaged will be enough to send a strong message to Ottawa in October. If you think your student loans are too costly, or your job prospects are too low, now is the time to speak up and say something about it.

Demand solutions.

As students, and more importantly young Canadians, let’s try picking up the newspaper, visiting blogs or even watching the local news. An important national debate is unfolding, and so far the leaders aren’t considering our needs as students to be a major priority. It’s on us to change that.

Advance polls will be open from Oct. 9 to Oct. 12 with the final voting day on Oct. 19. Learn about your options, ask questions, then get out and vote.

David Koroma has experience working in government and political communications. He is interested in the role of citizens have in creating positive changes in Canada and abroad. Follow David on Twitter @D_A_Koroma.