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Vol 38  No 9
February 2, 2006


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PoliSci student opinions passionate but diverse on federal vote

By Leslie Vryenhoek

Students in Alex Marland’s Parties and Elections in Canada course listen as St. John’s East candidate Mike Kehoe (NDP), right, and Stephen Harris (Green Party) explain their platforms. (Photo by Chris Hammond)
 

If you think Canada’s youngest voters are of one mind — that those who aren’t apathetic are all leaning left of centre — then you haven’t spent time discussing the recent federal election in Alex Marland’s Parties and Elections in Canada course. From staunch Conservatives to emphatic NDP supporters, the students in this third-year Political Science course were passionate about the election and its outcome during a discussion the day after the Jan. 23 vote.

“Hallelujah! The Liberals had become corrupt, and they were tearing apart the country. It was time for a change,” asserted Patrick Hanlon, a Conservative supporter.

Change was something most of the students were happy about, regardless of their political stripes — although they agreed with Mr. Marland’s suggestion that any party in power for long enough will face corruption in its ranks. Nonetheless, several echoed Mr. Hanlon’s comment that “this is a chance for Prime Minister Harper to prove himself now.”

“I think minority governments are a good thing because they produce the most interesting legislation, and people have to work together and take in others’ perspectives,” Adam Fancy noted.

Others were disappointed in the outcome, and in the whole notion that the Liberals and the Conservatives are the only viable governing parties.

“The NDP started as a grassroots party and they have grown so much and done so much — it’s BS that they’re not going to get anywhere,” said Cara Lewis in response to comments that the NDP were unrealistic and would be unable to govern responsibly.

Veronica Walther felt the same about the Green Party. “That they spend no money on their campaigns is disappointing. In Europe, the Green Party is really a force, but here it’s like they don’t take themselves seriously. I think if they invested more, they’d be surprised what they could do.”

What factors played into their decisions? If this group is any gauge, the youth of candidates isn’t a big concern. “If someone is young and hasn’t had much experience, then they probably aren’t the best choice for leader,” Susan Rowsell said. “I’m only slightly more encouraged to vote for a party that contains younger candidates, because they’ll have a perspective on issues that might affect my generation.”

As one male student pointed out: “It’s about ideology, not about age.”

Turned off by attack ads, candidates who don’t take themselves seriously — whether by underselling their qualifications or talking about their drunken exploits — and the lacklustre campaign they believe the Liberals ran, all the students said ideology, issues and ideals were their guides.

What these young voters had most in common was certainty. Unlike many Canadians who publicly commented that they were waffling right up until casting their ballot, the students all said they had made their decisions well in advance (“I knew how I was going to vote 10 years ago!” Mr. Hanlon said with a laugh). And those decisions were based on a careful analysis of the parties’ platforms.

“I was going to vote Liberal initially, because I wanted to stop the Conservatives — I’m not down with them at all — but the more I looked at the platforms during the campaign, the more I liked what the NDP stood for,” Mark Vidal said.

Voting strategically — whether to help secure an MP who belongs to the party in power, or to prevent an outcome they disliked — was something none of the students were willing to do. As Cara Lewis said: “I don’t believe in strategic voting, or voting out of fear. I voted from the heart.”

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