Election awareness campaigns to empower student voters

Provincial election campaign posters

By Gord Bacon

LANCE REPORTER

With provincial elections quickly approaching, student organizations across Ontario are making a push to revive an anaemic post-secondary demographic and force government officials to acknowledge education reform.

On Oct. 6, University of Windsor students could potentially join over 600,000 of their peers in selecting the new structure of Ontario’s provincial government.

Over the next month, the Canadian Federation of Students will be running it’s Take-It-Over political awareness campaign in conjunction with the It’s-Your-Vote initiative, organized in partnership by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Student Alliance. The respective organizations will attempt to raise awareness on issues relevant to students and provide younger students with the tools necessary to vote.

According to take-it-over.ca, student issues are pushed to the bottom of the pile by those seeking election as just 34 per cent of Canadians under the age of 25 voted during the last provincial election compared to 83 per cent of Canadians over the age of 55.

Both non-partisan campaigns are being rolled out by separate bodies, but the message is the same as the CFS, OUSA and the CSA look to bring more students to the polls and bring attention to an age bracket that has not forced politicians’ hands in the past.

[one_half]OUSA executive director Sam Andrey’s outlook mirrors that of the CFS web-page in that most political parties will not address student concerns until students do.

“Students tend to vote in lower numbers and that has an impact on how seriously our issues are taken … so it’s important to
act out of self-interest and get students out to the polls,” said Andrey.

The solution, he said, “is to provide resources and information on parties running and provide resources for students on how to vote.”

While rising tuition costs and budget cuts are important topics to catch the attention of post-secondary students, CFS Chairperson Sandy Hudson sees Take-It-Over as a vehicle to get students to the polls for more than just educational issues.

“For a number of students it is going to be the first time that they are eligible to vote and so it’s very important to make
sure they’re educated on how to vote, but it’s just as important to make sure they know what the issues are, especially ones
that most certainly effect their lives,” she said.

The implications of raising this kind of awareness also helps students realize how far their vote truly reaches and who really controls the amount of money charged and delegated to schools throughout Ontario according to University of Windsor Students’ Alliance representative Kimberly Orr.[/one_half]

[one_half_last]THE FACTS:

  • 370%: the percentage tuition fees in Ontario have increased since 2006, compared to inflation.
  • $37,000: average student debt from both public and private loans after a four year degree.
  • $10,222 per student: Ontario’s per student funding for post-secondary education ranks it 10th of out 10 provinces.
  • $25,469 per student: Alberta’s per student funding for post-secondary education ranks it 1st out of 10 provinces.
  • 15%: Ontario’s student-faculty ratio is the worst in Canada, 15% higher than anywhere else in the country.
  • ½: for every two people over 15 years of age in Ontario with at least a bachelor’s degree, only one person from northern Ontario has a comparable level of education.
  • 53%: Colleges receive only roughly half the amount of per student public funding that universities receive.
  • 95%: the percentage of graduate students who cannot access an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
  • 2.4 times: people over the age of 55 are two and half times more likely to vote than are people under 25.
  • 88%: the percentage of Ontarians that think tuition fees should be frozen or reduced.
  • © 2010 Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario cfsontario.ca

[/one_half_last]

“We only have the chance to vote once every four years so it’s a shame to waste that opportunity to voice your opinion,” said the vice-president of university affairs. “A lot of students don’t realize that it’s the provincial government that dictates how much their tuition increases every year, so it’s (the Take-It-Over campaign) about encouraging students to vote and also to help them understand why they’re voting.”

Twenty-year-old voter Jeff Parker has been influenced by similar campaigns in the past and sees the importance in raising awareness for new students, especially those who are just entering university or college.

“If tuition costs were lowered it would have a large impact on my life … we should place more emphasis on education reform,” said the second-year human kinetics student from Amherstburg.

“We need to educate students and others on important issues. For us to make an impact and change society so that it benefits us we all need to vote and make our voice heard.”

Complete details on goals and events with political platform comparisons can be found at cfsontario.ca and itsyourvote.ca.

Both the Take-It-Over and Its-Your-Vote campaigns will be hosting a series of events on campuses across the province to register student voters and raise awareness on a variety relevant issues leading up to the Oct. 6 provincial election.

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