Youth from across the valley met in Invermere on July 28th to attend a barbecue hosted by Kootenay-Columbia NDP Candidate Wayne Stetski.
The event was Mr. Stetski’s second youth-oriented barbecue, coming of the heels of one he organized in Cranbrook. He said it is important to make a strong effort with younger voters, since the 18 to 34 age demographic has traditionally had the lowest voter turnout during federal elections.
“This is their country and this is their future,” Mr. Stetski said. “We are trying to make sure that youth interests are considered.”
At the barbecue, attendees shared their thoughts on several key election issues, such as the environment, security and child care. Local organizer Brodie Smith said it is important to allow youth the chance to ask questions and learn from their federal candidates.
“I know a lot of young people in the area here who have not been participating in democracy by not voting and not caring because they do not know enough about it,” Mr. Smith said. “I grew up here and I know a lot of people from here, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to encourage my friends and other people to come and learn a bit and get involved.”
Since Canada has approximately seven million eligible youth voters, Mr. Smith emphasized how important the age demographic could be to the country’s future.
“As a whole, if we went and voted, we would have a lot of power in an election like this,” Mr. Smith said.
Corey Knight, a 19-year-old who attended the event, said political parties who do not target youth are doomed to cynicism and an eventual loss of popularity, since today’s youth will run Ottawa in a few decades.
“It is especially important for a party like the NDP to target youth because they offer the incredible opportunity for millennials to elect the first NDP federal government,” Mr. Knight said. “This would give people our age the chance to begin our own political legacy.”
Not all the attendees at the event fit into the youth demographic. David Schindler, a retired professor of ecology from the University of Alberta, was brought in by Mr. Stetski because of his knowledge of environmental issues and his experience mentoring youth.
“I think that youth ought to realize that they are one of the biggest and most influential groups,” Mr. Schindler said. “I think what they have been lacking is information and that is why events like this are good.”