Opinion

NO. REALLY: Politicians like to kiss babies and then ignore the young

It’s a new year, full of promise, opportunity and…oh, whom am I kidding kids, it’s a strange world and today’s leaders don’t care what you think.

Sad, really, when you think about all the lip service politicians give to children and teens. You know, all the rhetoric how they are, “Our future…tomorrow’s leaders…blah, blah, blah.”

They’re stating the obvious as they lean in to kiss your baby. However, when it comes to political strategy, kids today are just as important to the political machines as the blind and legless beggars of Mumbai.

The former can’t vote in Canada while the former – who can – just won’t.

The numbers bear this out. According to Elections Canada, voter turnout was 61.4 per cent in the 2011 federal election, with B.C. about average at 61.1 per cent.

Voter turnout in the 2009 B.C. provincial election was even worse at 51 per cent and the turnout for the 2011 municipal election in Campbell River was a pathetic 30 per cent.

But here’s the disturbing part about just who voted in the last federal campaign: Voter turnout for those aged 18-24 was 38.8 per cent or about the same as my Grade 12 physics exam score.

The numbers increase slightly for the 25-34 age crowd at 45.1 per cent, and then climbs steadily, reaching a peak of 75.1 per cent for voters aged 65-74. In short, the majority of voters fall into the 45-74 age bracket and every politician who can count knows this. And the result is predictable with political parties catering specifically to those who put them in office.

This isn’t news either, but the trend keeps growing.

Consider the federal Conservatives and some of their head-scratching policies: Build new prisons, even though the crime rate is decreasing; scrap the gun registration list, even though the police chiefs across the country begged them to keep it; and, recently, trying to undermine the Youth Criminal Justice Act, so we can treat children like adults.

These are not key priorities for the majority of Canadians, but apparently they are important to those who keep the Tories in power. And, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters for Prime Minister Harper and our MP, John Duncan.

To put it more succinctly, if you create specific policy for a minority of people who like to vote for you, you’re probably going to get re-elected, more so when the voter turnout is dismal amongst young Canadians.

And if you think this applies strictly to federal politics, think again. Next Friday, Jan. 11, the B.C. Conservative Party will present its North Island candidate for the May 14 provincial election right here in Campbell River.

Particularly telling is where and when this event is being held…at the Seniors Centre at 11:30 a.m.

It’s a great strategy by this new Conservative party – go straight to the people who actually vote and even feed them too!

As for the rest of the voters who are working, caring for children or going to school, well, as the saying goes, “Snooze you lose.”

Obviously this is a great political strategy, but it makes for lousy government, as well as leadership, when a ruling party’s main objective is re-election rather than creating policy that benefits the majority and for those in need of assistance.

Perhaps that’s just too altruistic, but young Canadians do know when they’re being ignored and the inevitable result is they snub their noses at politics. As for the young people who do become involved, they mostly learn what they’re taught…and so the cycle goes.

B.C. is looking at online voting and that’s one strategy to entice people to fill out ballots, but it doesn’t address the underlying reasons for voter apathy.

Another strategy is to adopt Australia’s compulsory voting law. It’s pretty straight-forward: If you don’t vote, you’ll be fined $50 which I think is a fair penalty in a democratic society for ignoring a right so many others in this world would love to have.

 

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com

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