Written by: Rayne Fisher-Quann, from CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network
There’s a common belief that young people don’t care about politics – that we’re uneducated, or apathetic, or lethargic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My generation is one of the most passionate, active, revolutionary generations in history: whether you look at the Parkland activists, the new wave of conscious young celebrities, or even the 40 000 students right here in Ontario who fought for their right to accurate education, Gen Z is creating the change that we want to see in the world.
As a politically active student, I’ve often imagined myself in the place of a powerful political leader. Being a teenage girl can often feel like a powerless position, and we’re a demographic that very often isn’t taken into consideration when deciding policy and law. However, I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if we listened to teenage girls, so here’s what I would do if I were mayor of Toronto.
First of all, somewhat predictably, I would place monumental importance on youth engagement. We’re the future of Toronto (not the mention the whole world), and we deserve a say in what it looks like. There are huge differences in what youth say are top issues (global warming, affordable housing, the student debt crisis) and what chart the highest among adults (economic stability, tax reductions, infrastructure), and this is something we need to take notice of. We need, more than ever, to focus on the future – and where better to start than the future leaders of our city?
I would invest in youth outreach programs to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to become educated and involved on political issues. I’d create youth-oriented town halls to give young people a safe space to express their opinion, and I’d invest in scholarship programs for young people to pursue political science. Too often, politics is a breeding ground for nepotism and cycles of wealth. We need new faces, and young faces, in the game to make a city that works for all of us.
I would also put a huge priority on caring for and growing our green spaces. Toronto should be a leader in environmental stewardship, and as one of the greenest cities in North America, we have a great start. I would push to expand our natural green spaces and invest in stewardship programs to create a cleaner city. With sobering new research on the urgent need to address climate change, we need now more than ever to work to save our planet. I would put forward a plastic water bottle ban, more heavily price plastic bags, and provide incentives for businesses to practice environmentally friendly policies.
Those are only a few of the ideas that I would put in place. There are so many ways that young people can change the world, and I can’t wait for when my generation starts getting voted into office. But, even now, our government can create meaningful change by listening to the voices of the youth.
The “If I Were Mayor” blog series profiles the ideas of youth and rising leaders from across the GTHA as a way to add their voices to the municipal conversation. Posts have been curated by CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network, For Youth Initiative, Laidlaw Foundation, Toronto Youth Cabinet, Citizen Empowerment Project, Young Women’s Leadership Network, and the Centre for Community and Immigration Services. The views contained in this post are the author’s and are not reflective of CivicAction or the CivicAction Leadership Foundation.