Every time an election comes around, the old adage that “elections matter” gets trotted out along with the cliché that young people don’t vote. Yes, elections matter every time. They decide who is making daily decisions that impact us in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. But every so often, there is an election or a set of elections that can have larger impacts. We are in a time where things are changing fast — social movements are demanding action on climate change, on racism and discrimination, on economic inequalities. These movements, reacting to crises we’ve reached in many of these areas, have set us up with the potential to vote for policies that have really not been on the political scope before.
This election is also different because, for the first time in a national election, Millennials and Gen Z will make up the largest voting block, surpassing even baby boomers. We, as the younger generation — those who will live the longest with the decisions made after this election — could determine the election’s result. Millennials and Gen Z are certainly not all of the same opinions and ideas, but by and large, they are quite different from the older other generations that have been the predominant groups in past elections. This is our opportunity to make sure our issues and priorities come to the forefront.
So what is really at stake in this election?
We are now seeing the impacts of climate change every day. Forest fires at home and all over the world have brought ominous orange sunsets with too high of frequency. We have devastating droughts and flash flooding, while scientists, including those who teach at our institution, continue to tell us that we are at our last chance to avoid even worse impacts.
Income inequality, along with the cost of living, continues to rise in Canada, while wages do not keep up with inflation. The Mint Condition report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reported that on average, Canada’s top 100 CEOs have enjoyed a 61 per cent increase since 2008. In the year from 2017 to 2018, their pay increased 18 per cent while the average Canadian worker gained just 2.6 per cent. According to David Macdonald, a CCPA senior economist, by 10:09 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2021, the average top CEOs would have made as much money as the average Canadian worker would make all year.
Whoever is elected will also have big decisions to make regarding how to spend the huge investments that will come as part of the COVID-19 recovery plan. These investments will have a long-lasting impact on our future and make this a pivotal election. If we want action on the issues that matter to us, this is the election to make our voices truly heard.
For years governments said action on big issues had to be gradual and that they didn’t have the money or ability to make decisive changes and investments. However, the pandemic has shown us that governments instead didn’t have the willpower to make these changes. Now that we know better, we can and should demand more.
Our generations have been watching in frustration as governments ignore the future we will be living in for the short-term solution. Whatever your priorities, whoever you support, we now have the numbers to be taken seriously. Let’s take advantage of this and change the narrative around young voters by talking about our priorities and showing up on election day.