Off the Record: Canada’s youth hold the future to politics

After years of apathy among Canada's youngest voters, they've finally woken up and taken to the polls.

After allotting some time to letting the dust settle and placing the numbers into spreadsheets, it’s becoming easier to understand how Justin Trudeau became the most powerful man in Canada as of October 19th, 2015. If you’re looking to attribute praise or conversely, blame, for this eventuality, look no further than Canada’s youngest voters.

For the first time in a long time, Canadians aged 18 to 24 made their voice heard, turning out to the polls in nearly unprecedented Liberal fashion to make Justin Trudeau Canada’s 42nd prime minister.

Whether or not you support Trudeau and his platform, this is an exciting revelation for our democratic country. Prior to the 2015 election, Canada’s youth and its politicians worked in a cancerous wheel of ignorance. Youth didn’t participate in politics especially when it came to electoral participation, with just 30.8 per cent of 18-24 year olds turning out to vote in the 2011 general election, giving politicians passive permission to exclude them from their policymaking (budgets, laws, advocacy).

Instead, the government focused on seniors, who voted far more often and thus were more likely to pay attention to the decisions officials would be making in office. The logic is simple and easy enough to understand. The worry, as the gap continually has widened between youth turnout and the rest of the population, was that apathy would carry forward throughout the rest of their lives the traditional pattern of an increase in voter turnout with age.

That worry, at least with this election, seems to have been alleviated. While there was an increase in voter turnout across all age groups, the biggest jump in the last election occurred in the 18 to 24 age group, increasing 18.3 per cent to 57.1 per cent. This increase is the biggest for the age group since 2004 and nearly matches the national average of 68.8 per cent the highest national average in more than 20 years.

This fails to mention that the rate of first-time voters increased nearly 18 per cent this election, pointing to the likelihood that voters will continue to cast their ballots in future elections.

One can only speculate about the reasons why youth voted more in this election. A dominating theory is that they were excited by Trudeau’s own youthful perspective on politics, pushing electoral promises like marijuana legalization and student debt to the national agenda.

The now-prime minister’s emphasis on incorporating youth during his campaign paid off too, as 45 per cent of youth voters voted for him, compared to just 25 and 20 per cent for the NDP and Conservatives, according to a recent study by Abacus Data. It became a new market inefficiency for Trudeau to exploit, in the most economic terms possible, and one for future politicians to exploit.

The real question is whether or not this revolution in youth participation will continue in future elections to make politicians collectively care about Canada’s generation of tomorrow, but only Father Time has the answer to that.