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Globe Editorial

Canada's youth will set the voting day example Add to ...

It is heartening and wonderful to see one of the biggest voting blocs of them all - the non-voting young - awaken. Some have dropped the excuses they made just three years ago. Then, many did not recognize voting as a civic duty, and contended that they lacked the knowledge to vote responsibly.

"I'm not informed. I don't know anything," a young person was quoted as saying in a study of voter turnout by two Canadian academics, Lawrence LeDuc and Jon Pammett. Another said, "If you are unsure then you should not vote, because that one vote could decide our future in the wrong way." Imagine feeling that one vote could decide the country's future, and then walking away from such power.

This time, though, young voters appear engaged. The "vote mobs" on nearly a score of university campuses, the record turnout at the advance polls, the Nelly Furtado video posted on YouTube (" I'm a dummy, I used to not vote") - something is in the air.

Roughly half of non-voters are people under 30. Think of the untapped power. And all the major issues relate as much to them as to their parents. The debt? They will be the ones to pay for it. Jobs? They will certainly need them. The cost of postsecondary education? Climate change? Health care? Even if they are living in their mother's basement and obsessively playing video games, these issues will affect them deeply.

Voting had been remarkably consistent until less than a generation ago. In 1900, 77 per cent of eligible voters voted. In 1958, 79 per cent voted; in 1988, 75 per cent. Last election, just 59 per cent turned out. Similar declines have been seen across the Western world, including Britain and the United States. In that same period, at least in Canada, the "boomerang" generation returned home to mother (or father), was less likely to marry, have children, start a career. Thirty became the new 21.

Whether or not the apparent re-emergence of young voters portends a broader change in today's youth, and whether or not it angers some older people (including members of newspaper editorial boards) by helping give Jack Layton and the New Democrats many more seats than they've ever had, the young should get out and vote, to put politicians on notice for future campaigns.

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