By Faria Ahmed
As many of you already know, Canada is headed for its federal election in October 2019. In simple terms, this election will determine who the next Prime Minister will be and who will be forming the next Federal government. For many millennials across the globe, Canada became a common household name over the last few years because of its compassionate policies for refugees, legalization of marijuana, and its rather charming Prime Minister. Another reason was probably that our universal health insurance, for the first time, stood out in striking contrast to our neighbour to the south who are also nearing an election.
However, many more things have happened as we headed into an election year. As an immigrant who just received her citizenship, this will be the first election in Canada where I get to vote. That is both exciting and a bit overwhelming, because I now feel responsible as a citizen to make the right call. That is why I began to go through lots of news articles, in an attempt to better inform myself about the challenges we will face as a population over the next 4 years, and to evaluate which party is offering better policy solutions for the issues.
Millennials could decide the next election
On September 14, 2019, CBC News reported that young adults could have a huge impact on deciding the results of this upcoming election, since they made up more than a third of eligible voters (Abacus Data). On September 18th, The Star published an article titled ‘MIllennials and Gen Z are the biggest voting bloc in this election’, further analyzing the voting power in the hands of our generation. Reading this automatically made me feel even more responsible to dig deep and weigh each candidate and party in my riding. My votes and those of my peers quite literally has the power to decide the fate of Canadian politics for the next 4 years.
Voting Differences among Gender Groups
One interesting thing I noticed was a Narcity article which cited a survey by Angus Reid foundation; this survey showed that females in the millennial age group were leaning towards a Liberal government while males were leaning towards Conservatives. This was extremely amusing for me, because until that moment I didn’t realize that I also had to factor in my gender, my rights as a woman, an ethnic and religious minority to decide who is more likely to do right by me. Let’s begin at the surface though.
When I looked closely at the published data in that same article, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 17% females in my age group (18-34) were voting for the Green Party, which is the highest percentage from any other age group among both gender groups. I absolutely agree that the environment (which Green prioritizes) is among the top policy issues which we should be looking at as millennials.
“A vote cast is never a vote wasted”
Many would argue (including close friends of mine) that any vote given to Green or NDP is a vote wasted because the Liberals and Conservatives are still the two major players. I disagree. I personally believe that a vote cast is never a vote wasted, and no matter what we need to be voting and showing up in overwhelming numbers so that politicians on all sides of the aisle know they need to be working for our approval.
Millennial Students and Shrinking OSAP
As a university student myself, I know how important funding my education through grants and loans is to me. In Ontario, when Doug Ford’s conservative government came to power, we all immediately felt the effects of grant cuts on our provincial grant funding for university. Like many others, my loan-to-grant ratio increased and even the loans were less than the previous year. I would have contemplated taking the year off and working, but that’s when I realized that starting this year I have been out of high school for 10 years. That automatically qualified me to receive the Federal Skills Boost grant! Although this grant did not exactly compensate for the full amount that Ford’s Ontario had cut, this federal grant allowed me to just about manage my academic school year without having to drop out.
The Liberals had previously increased the federal grants for full-time and part-time university students and now they are promising another bump to this ‘Canada Students Grant’ fund, according to macleans.ca (Sept 29, 2019).
It’s Payback Time
Another part of student loans which recently turned into a nightmare for us Ontarians was the pressure to begin paying back immediately after graduating (with no interest-frozen grace period). Trudeau’s promise hits tackles this one head-on by promising to push interest-free status from 6-months to 2 full years after graduating. On top of that, he would potentially allow students to not begin paying back the loan until we are making CAD 35,000 or more (macleans.ca, 29 Sept 2019). It almost seems that he is taking our problems seriously, and understanding that we do not begin laying golden eggs the morning after our convocation ceremonies. On this particular issue, I am expecting millennials to lean a little Liberal. Having said that, the ‘overspending’ nature of Liberals is something that my conservative peers often bring up and I will fairly put forward those arguments in a follow-up article.
So, Who Is Truly Green?
My feel-good sentiment is that in Canada (unlike the USA), the conservatives (at least) acknowledge climate change and have agreed to continue Canada’s support of the Paris Accord (thenarwhal.ca). The striking difference between Liberals and Conservatives in this regard is how they are planning on achieving the targets set for our country.
Sheer’s climate platform “A Real Plan” has been said to focus on giving Canadians credit incentives to move to more efficient energy use in the home (cbc.ca, July 30, 2019). That’s definitely a good thing and in the right direction. However, cbc also reports in the same article that there is no significant plan to reduce greenhouse gases and meet the targets set out for Canada.
Trudeau’s campaign has spent significant portions of its time harping about the green initiatives it has already implemented in the past term (such as funding 1000 green energy projects and financial incentives for electric vehicle purchases), however his plan for the next term and how exactly we will meet our 2030 targets are still unclear. (cbc.ca, 25 Sept 2019)
Their promise to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 appears to be unaccompanied by concrete plans and policies. That, along with his promise to Greta Thunberg last week to plant 2 billion trees if elected (Global News, 24 Sept 2019) almost seems like he is pulling last-minute tricks out of the hat. Plus, it could also be an attempt to cover up the guilt of buying a pipeline when in power (not the most eco friendly thing for Canada and the world). If his promises are all true, I’m on board for sure. However, until a time that more details are revealed, I will remain a little skeptical.
NDP promises to move away from fossil fuel dependency and shed more light on the Liberal’s track record (ctvnews.ca, 24 Sept 2019). I won’t spend more time on NDP and Green because they are both already well known to receive the green check marks when it comes to environmental issues. So, when it comes to the environment I’m leaning towards NDP/Green.
Other Pressing Issues
Apart from education and the environment, the three issues that stand out to me the most are foreign policy, immigration policies and ‘balancing the budget’. As a country whose only population growth is predicted to be through immigration alone by the year 2034 (The Conference Board of Canada), and as an immigrant myself I want to see comprehensive policies for allowing steady and diverse immigration backed up by detailed resettlement plans. I have seen dozens of immigrants from my home country Bangladesh come to Canada through the skilled labour quota and remain unemployed simply because their academic and professional qualifications didn’t translate to Canada’s standards. I need my party of choice to be able to create better tools so immigrants can navigate their way through this new world with new expectations of them. All this, as well as promoting diversity, equality and being financially prudent as a nation are things I am still researching as we head closer to this election.
Why We Absolutely Must Vote
According to Global News, there are actually more millennial voters in this election compared to the babyboomer generation – which is why our voices can and should be heard loud and clear. Whether you will weigh job creation, student loans, environmental policies, healtcare or other issues at the top of your list…please please go and vote. It is extremely important that our generation is heard and acknowledged in the coming election so we can begin changing the national dialogue and policy, one democratic vote.