Are students voting this election?

On September 20, Canadian students — amongst other voters — will make their voices heard in a snap election less than two years after the Liberal minority government was elected. A major concern this election season for students (besides COVID-19) is the scrapping of the Vote on Campus initiative that allowed them to vote at their universities in 2019. The Ubyssey spoke with some UBC students to see why they’re voting this year, which issues matter to them and if the pandemic is playing a vital role in their vote.

Why is it important for students to vote in this election?

Rosemary Alberts, third-year political science student: “By exercising your right to vote, you are expressing your views on what you want our country, provinces and towns to look like in the future. I think it’s important for students to vote not just in this election, but every election.”

Syra Tak, second-year commerce student: “As a woman of colour, I feel like I owe it to … how I identify to vote because you know we had the suffragette movement before, where women fought to vote and then … immigrants [also fought to vote] … like my grandparents. So I feel like I owe that to my history.”

Amy Topshee, third-year political science student: “So many election issues are particularly relevant to young students: affordable housing, climate change, student debt, health care.”

Julia Dhillon, second-year arts student: “This pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities, showcasing how post-pandemic paths cannot perpetuate existing harmful policies. We need to become engaged citizens and work for change.”

Sean Thorne, fourth-year political science student: “Young people are becoming one of the largest and most influential voting demographics, and the only way our members of parliament will represent the issues that impact us most is if we advocate for them with our ballots. If we don’t vote, politicians won’t listen to our concerns.”

Sahil Gupta, second-year mechanical engineering student: “I became a Canadian citizen almost 6 months ago so this would be my first time voting so I feel pretty excited about it.”

What topics are you looking for in party platforms, or which issues matter the most to you?

Alberts: “As a student, some of the top issues that matter to me are climate change and affordability, whether that be tuition or housing, among other things. Everyone will have to deal with the consequences of the climate crisis but the younger generations will be most impacted. Student debt can prevent many students from saving up to buy a home in the future as the affordability gap continues to grow.”

Tak: “Selfishly, as a student, I obviously look into parties and all of the promises that they have for students that they're putting forward. … Also climate change, which is a really big thing and I'm really looking at not just making promises but seeing ... what they have done already to combat climate change.”

Topshee: “For me, the issue that matters the most is climate change. Climate change has and will continue to negatively impact population health, the economy, housing and more. One issue that I haven’t heard anyone else discuss, but that I’d really like to see, is lowering the voting age. They receive civics education in school and the outcomes of elections will impact them.”

Dhillon: “If I had to pick just three issues that I am looking most at in this election, off the top of my head, they would probably be climate change, Indigenous reconciliation and social [and] economic inequality.”

Thorne: “This year I’m looking to parties to address affordability, particularly with school and cost of living, as well as effective climate and healthcare policy.”

Gupta: “Mostly, I am looking for who can offer the public the most and my biggest concern is the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia monopoly.”

Has COVID-19 affected the way you’re going to vote?

Alberts: “It definitely means I will look at each party's views on issues that were not important during the last federal election such as COVID [-19] recovery and mandatory vaccinations.”

Tak: “You definitely see more so, how the current party in power has been responding to [COVID-19] and so you kind of have to take other parties, what they're promising and such at face value … because we haven't gotten to see it in action quite yet.”

Topshee: “Not overly, I will still vote in person, wear a mask and follow any other public health guidelines that are in effect at that time.”

Dhillon: “Though COVID [-19] hasn’t really affected how I will vote, it has definitely made me more confident in how I plan to vote … this is due to the pandemic’s reinforcement of existing social inequalities. We need change.”

Thorne: “Practically, no, I’ll still be going to the polls and putting my ballot in the box. In terms of party, it has definitely been a part of my decision of who I’m voting for.”

Final remarks

Dhillon: “As the Vote on Campus program has been cancelled this year, it is vital that the youth make a plan to vote. Our future is on the line, and your voice can make a difference. Please vote.”