2018-20 ELN Communications Lead Alyssa Lai is a permanent resident in Canada. While she can’t vote in Canadian elections, she enjoys being a fly on the wall as she observes and follows election and current affairs news. Alyssa is fascinated by the discourse around various social, economic, and political issues and shares her thoughts regularly on Twitter (@alyssaglai). She attended a debate viewing party in Hamilton, where she lives. Below is her reflection.
Two hours of sound bites and bickering may leave you wanting more out of a federal leaders’ debate, but it was also the reason why young leaders in Hamilton got together – to make sense out of the many one-liners and election promises put forth.
To encourage conversation about what’s on the table this election, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and its Young Entrepreneurs & Professionals (YEP) division hosted a 2019 Federal Leaders debate viewing party.
But before the six federal party leaders took to the stage to go tete-a-tete in front of thousands of viewers, Hamilton’s own young leaders held a roundtable about issues that affect the city’s businesses and young people.
Chamber President & CEO Keanin Loomis and Policy Analyst Bianca Caramento debated on the possible election outcomes, and whether Hamilton businesses would benefit from one party winning over the other. Would Hamilton’s $1-billion LRT stay on track? How would cannabis regulation and the market moving forward? As a non-partisan organization, how does the Chamber work with individuals of all party stripes and maintain absences of bias?
The truthful answer to this (and everything, really) was “It depends.” However, the young leaders in the room were overwhelmingly concerned about two key election issues: climate change and housing affordability.
Caramento said everyone, but especially young people, are bearing the effects of climate change. The science of climate change goes back decades, since the 1960s. Climate change activism is taking place worldwide, notably through the #FridaysForFuture climate strike inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg. Yet, political parties disagree on how best to tackle this crisis, said Caramento.
Housing affordability is also important to young people, because it’s not only about home ownership, but also the ability to afford rent, said Pete Van Dyk, Chair of YEP. A 2018 study by the Canadian Rental Housing Index found that 20 per cent of Hamilton tenants spend more than 50 per cent of their income on rent. Almost half of Hamilton’s rental households spend more than 30 per cent of household income on rent and utilities.
Given the concerns on two issues reaching crisis levels, how did federal leaders measure up in the eyes of Hamilton’s emerging leaders?
Cassandra D’Ambrosio, Manager of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at the Chamber, said it’s good to see climate change on every leader’s platform, but the leaders’ perspectives did not change her vote in her local riding in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
Another attendee Arjaan De Visser agreed that the debate did not offer anything new; however, he now has a better understanding of how the different parties portray themselves, including each federal leader’s character and personality.
If the debate didn’t change views or move hearts and minds, what makes this election different than others?
Simply, Millennials and Gen Z are the largest voting bloc this election. Young Canadians, aged 18 to 38, have the power to shape the election outcomes through their votes.
Whether you’re a first-time or regular voter, take pride in your civic duty and deepen your understanding of issues that matter to you, your community, your city, and your country.
Confused or overwhelmed by conflicting election messages and promises? Here are a few resources to guide your voting decision:
- Vote Compass: an interactive platform that shows you where you stand on various issues in this election.
- TVO’s The Agenda: a current affairs program that offers an in-depth view on social, political, and economic issues confronting Ontarians
- Ryerson Democracy Engagement Exchange: a non-partisan resource that aims to demystify the voting process. Check out their comprehensive election handbook and join the Canadian Vote Coalition and encourage your peers to vote.
- Elections Canada: your go-to source for where, when, and how to vote.