Skip to main content

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

For almost two-thirds of young Canadian adults, a voting booth is like a Saturday morning. They're aware it exists, but have no recollection of ever seeing one.

Almost two-thirds of eligible voters aged 18 to 24 didn't cast a ballot in the last federal election. It's not that they're ignorant or apathetic, writes McGill University student Davide Mastracci in an insightful essay. Rather, they feel that politicians ignore the issues they care about – so they express themselves politically through other avenues, like Power Shift, a youth-run campaign targeting climate change.

We've personally seen how passionate young people are, and we want more of them to cast a ballot on Oct. 19.

One move that concerns us is the Fair Elections Act, passed this spring. It forbids Elections Canada from visiting campuses to get out the youth vote, and restricts forms of voter ID that young people – particularly students living away from home – typically use at polling stations.

To counter this, should Canada make voting mandatory like Australia? Turnout there has exceeded 93 per cent since 1946. Or do we introduce Internet voting to complement paper ballots, like Markham, Ont., has done in municipal elections since 2003?

Canada could also lower the voting age to 16, like Scotland did for last year's historic independence referendum, sparking a surge of political participation among young Scots.

With a dismal overall voter turnout of barely 61 per cent in the 2011 federal election, it's worth encouraging Canadians of all ages to vote this fall. But it's especially crucial to get young adults voting. Studies show if a young person votes in the first two elections they're eligible, they're more likely to continue voting all their lives.

This week's question: How can we convince young Canadians to vote in the coming federal election on Oct. 19?


Ilona Dougherty, co-founder, youth engagement organization Apathy is Boring, Montreal

"Straight up ask your kids, colleagues, friends, classmates, even your yoga instructor, to vote. Face-to-face conversations are shown to increase voter participation."

Jane Hilderman, executive director, citizen engagement organization Samara, Toronto

"We take cues from those we know and trust. Make voting an activity you do together with family, friends, neighbours or co-workers."

Laura Stephenson, chair of undergraduate political science, University of Western Ontario

"Young people are just as capable as anyone else to decide who should form government. We need to make it easier for them to learn about party stances on issues that they care about, perhaps with a special leaders' debate targeted to their concerns."

Have your say in the comments.