Written by Seher Shafiq.
Seher is the DiverseCity Fellows Program Manager at our CivicAction Leadership Foundation. She is extremely passionate about civic engagement and was heavily involved in get-out-the-vote efforts during the 2015 federal election, so expect to see her tweeting and sharing information and thoughts on the upcoming elections! Find out more about her here.
Packed tightly into two Ubers, the CivicAction staff headed to Daniels Spectrum auditorium this past Monday afternoon. The music was bumpin’ (do people even say that anymore?!) and despite the event starting at 1pm, the auditorium was almost full around 12:30pm.
We were there to attend the #YTH2018 Youth Town Hall with the provincial party leaders, spearheaded by Laidlaw Foundation, and supported by CivicAction, For Youth Initiative, TVO, Twitter Canada, Citizenship Empowerment Project, Apathy is Boring, and Young Women’s Leadership Network.
The vibe in that hall was amazing. You could feel the buzz and excitement in the air as people from different worlds connected. After having a little dance party in our seats (seriously loved the music!), we waited patiently as the three party leaders in attendance – Premier Kathleen Wynne (Liberal Party), Andrea Horwath (NDP), and Mike Schreiner (Green Party), were called up.
After their entrances, each party leader had approximately 30 minutes to woo the youth voters in the room. Each candidate was asked by Nam Kiwanuka, the moderator from TVO, about why they got into politics, followed by questions about their stances on specific policy issues.
After a few minutes of moderated Q&A with Nam, over the mic was passed to the youth in the room to ask the party leaders questions that were on their minds. And they delivered; the youth asked tough, thought provoking, and articulate questions about topics ranging from accessible transit, systemic racism, indigenous reconciliation, tuition fees, and more. Not only were the questions top notch, in just a few sentences the youth dispelled the myth that they are not informed and engaged about politics.
Yes, the party leaders had key campaign points that they highlighted about their party platforms, but considering this conversation happened just a few days before the writ dropped and the election campaign officially starts, I found the discussion was real, unscripted, and candid. I loved that no one felt the need to pre-screen the youth’s questions, contributing to the authentic conversation.
I have to say, my favourite part of the youth town hall was definitely seeing our Premier throw it down to Back to Back by Drake and Mike Schreiner wiggle to Walk It Talk It by Migos. But jokes aside, this forum was important for two reasons. First, it provided a platform for youth to share their concerns and ask burning questions to the party leaders directly and second, it showed the party leaders that this is a huge group of people who are, contrary to popular belief, civically engaged and aware.
In their closing remarks, every single party leader in attendance pleaded and urged youth to vote and get involved on a campaign. Why? Because youth have the power to influence the outcome of the upcoming election, and the party leaders know that. In a recent poll, 43% of millennials said they were “very likely” to vote on June 7th, and let’s not forget that youth (18-24) voter turnout increased by 18% in the 2015 federal election.
As the writ drops this week, all four political parties need to consider how to appeal to this demographic. Why? Because underestimating the power of one of Ontario’s largest voting blocks could literally cost them the election.
Missed the town hall? Watch a recording of it here.