I see this on my university campus, where a vocal and compassionate minority attempt to affect interest in the silent majority. Organizations such the Canadian Federation of Students (the CFS is one of the biggest student-focused lobby groups in Canada) have been organizing debates and information sessions across Canadian campuses, and while I can't speak for the whole country, a lot of this work goes unnoticed. Why is this?
At a basic level, the university-level organization does not seem to be there. At a debate organized by the CFS and the Concordia Student Union on October 1st, only two of the MP candidates (the NDP's Anne Lagace-Dowson, and the Conservatives' Guy Dufort) actually bothered showing up, with the Liberals' hotshot aeronaut Marc Garneau and the Bloq Quebecois's Patrick Larivee not in attendance (which brings up the irony of the BQ's slogan, "Present... Pour le Quebec").
As well, The CFS released a "report card" of the major political parties (http://www.voteeducation.ca/fd/english/files/2008_report_card_en.pdf), that is at once patronizing and patently nonsensical, grading parties on policies such as the environment and student loans, while assigning grades that really don't have much to do with their comments about the parties' stances (eg: grading parties differently for what they describe as similar positions and while not mirroring grades to their own evaluations). This makes something designed to simplify the voting process unnecessarily complicated.
All of this is contributing to the lack of a strong youth vote, but there must be more. Is it because there is no social pull to care, such as civil rights and anti-war movements of the past? Or is the lifestyle led by my contemporaries one that leaves no impulse for a proactive move such as voting- the combination of school stress, getting drunk, eating unhealthily and relying on a computer to keep your life in order does not really breed independent thought.
Perhaps it's due to the lack of a galvanizing and inspiring leader, like Barack Obama, electrifying college campuses. Canadian politics has been in a personality vacuum since Trudeau. There aren't really any inspirational leaders out there. I wish it was more of a popularity contest, because that would entail at least some personality. This is like going to the grocery store and them only having cottage cheese and beans. I'm not feeling hungry anymore. Neither will kill me, but where is the flavour?
All of these factors are slowing down the activity of what, if properly motivated and mobilized, could be an extremely strong force of change, especially for the left wing. University students alone account for a huge Canadian demographic, as well as Canada's future.
Hopefully, this election will show more of a presence from the youth, and not the silence that politicians have come to expect, resulting in a demographic politics has come to ignore.