Election 2011 is well underway and the issues are flowing out of each campaign platform (or not — depending on who you ask). For the most part, issues that have been flowing from the major political parties have been primarily domestic issues. This year, we’re not hearing much about Afghanistan, for example, as we had in the last election. We’re hearing about the long gun registry (again), economic recovery, health care and democracy. These are all great issues; but many climate change and sustainability groups including Sierra Youth Coalition are asking: what about climate change?
Where is the concern for clean energy and climate change during this election? While some of the campaign promises and party platforms show potential, it feels like Canada has taken some sorry steps backwards since climate change and clean energy were central to the leaders discourse in the last election.
Political leaders should be paying more attention to climate change; it’s what the next generation of voters want. Our political parties need to start paying attention to the youth vote and the issues of concern for them. A Globe and Mail article from October 2010 showed a dramatic difference in the way Parliament would look if just youth voted. In fact, the Green Party would capture 22% of the vote — beating the Conservatives and coming in a close second to the Liberal Party.
What can we derive from this? For one, the environment is a concern amongst the next generation of engaged voters. In addition, minority parliaments would most certainly become the norm, given the thin spread of their votes. From this, it becomes clear that issues, not political parties, concern young voters and make the most impact when trying to capture their vote.
Clean energy and climate change are issues that youth are paying attention to. From our work at Sierra Youth Coalition, we know youth are taking action at a grassroots level, through high school and campus sustainability projects. However, with youth voter turnout well below 40%, our candidates are listening to those who are voting in higher numbers, such as seniors while issues important to youth fall to the wayside. When it comes to the youth vote, we have fallen into a vicious cycle where leaders never attempt to engage youth and so youth become even more disengaged to the point of total apathy. We need to break this cycle, and given that politicians don’t seem to be prepared to do it, it is time for youth to show who our future really belongs to and vote.