Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Elaine Su, helps Jordan, 9, left, cast his ballot during the Student Vote Canada 2019, the largest student parallel election held in Canada, at Second Street Community Elementary school in Burnaby, British Columbia, Oct. 17, 2019.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A long line of fidgety kids pours out of an elementary school library in the heart of British Columbia’s New Westminster-Burnaby riding. Each student holds either a custom-made ID card or their school planner in hand, eager to present valid identification and vote in this year’s federal election.

The results at Second Street Community School won’t officially count, but the students, many of whom insist on keeping their vote private, take this very seriously. Their teachers do, too.

“Voter turnout among young people is always low,” said Elaine Su, teacher-librarian at Second Street. By prioritizing civic education and familiarizing students with the voting process early on, she hopes that can change. In only two election cycles, many of her students will be eligible to cast a ballot.

Story continues below advertisement

More than 1.1 million elementary and secondary students in over 7,000 schools from all 338 ridings participated in Student Vote Canada 2019, a joint initiative between Elections Canada and CIVIX, a non-partisan charity dedicated to promoting civic engagement. Organizers say this likely makes the countrywide poll the world’s largest simulated election. It’s also the most successful Canadian campaign by the organization to date.

Results will be available at the close of official polls at studentvote.ca/canada.

In 2015, more than 900,000 students across Canada took part, a marked increase from past underage elections. The results largely mirrored the outcome of the real poll. The Liberal Party secured a majority government, garnering approximately 37.5 per cent of the popular vote with the Conservatives coming in second place. However, the results diverged somewhat. For instance, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau failed to win his own riding of Papineau, Que.

Nadia, 11, prepares to cast her ballot.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

In the weeks leading up to this year’s election, students at Second Street received a crash course on Canadian politics. Ms. Su figures most of what her students know about politics they learn from social media, which worries her.

"We, as adults, are supposed to be taking care of how they process information and how they learn about the world," she said. In her lesson plan, she emphasizes media literacy, teaching students to remain critical of what they see on the internet.

Despite any online disinformation they may encounter, Second Street's teacher-librarian joked that many of her young students appear to know more about Canadian politics than her colleagues. And she might be right.

In conversation with The Globe and Mail, an opinionated group of sixth and seventh graders referenced a laundry list of contemporary political issues, from Quebec’s controversial Bill 21 to the lack of clean drinking water on some Indigenous reservations.

Story continues below advertisement

But it’s the overly divisive state of Canada’s politics which seems to capture most of their attention – and for which they place blame squarely on the country’s feuding political leaders.

Most of the students interviewed by The Globe said their families tend to avoid the topic of politics to steer clear of any unnecessary conflict. For Neera, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, today’s polarization makes her reluctant even to vote.

"What if you tell your sibling, ‘Oh, I’m going to vote for this person!’ And they’re like, ‘Bleh,’ " she explained. “Then you get in a big fight, and you don’t talk for a while.”

But a precocious sixth-grader named Samara is excited to cast her ballot. She spoke passionately about how she would like to see more diversity in Canadian politics. All four of the leading candidates running in New Westminster-Burnaby are white, Samara pointed out.

Like several of the students The Globe met, she’s worried about the future, especially here in the Lower Mainland.

“When we grow older, imagine how high the rent is going to be for us?” Samara asked.

Story continues below advertisement

Rachel, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, moved the discussion to what has become a flashpoint issue across the entire country, but one that hits especially close to home in Burnaby: “They’re providing for the pipeline project, [but] that’s not going to benefit our town if it has a leak.” In general, climate change weighs heavily on the children.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s 'sunny ways' campaign mobilized many first-time voters in the 2015 election.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

While young people tend to vote significantly less than their older counterparts, the last election saw an uptick in turnout among young Canadians. In 2015, roughly 57 per cent of eligible voters between 18 and 24 cast a ballot, an 18-per-cent increase from 2011. This election, those between the ages of 18 and 38 comprise the largest segment of eligible voters.

Richard Johnston, Canada Research Chair in Public Opinion, Elections, and Representation at the University of British Columbia, says it’s difficult to predict whether young people will show up this time around.

Mr. Trudeau’s “sunny ways” campaign mobilized many first-time voters in 2015, Mr. Johnston says.

“But now the bloom is off that rose and there’s a lot of disappointment,” he said. “And, of course, it’s also been a depressingly negative, uninspiring campaign.”

But Mr. Johnston still expects many young voters to return to the polls. Studies show first-time eligible voters tend to make voting a habit, he says.

Story continues below advertisement

Samara hopes Mr. Johnston’s right.

“It’s really sad [youth vote less] because young people – we have different thoughts than older people.”

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies