On Sept. 17, UVic hosted a screening of The Drop: Why Young People Don’t Vote, a documentary starring Dylan Playfair that looks at youth voter apathy in Canada. The screening was followed by the panel discussion featuring UVic community members and those featured in the film itself.
The percentage of young people voting has declined tremendously for the last 50 years and constantly keeps declining. Only 39 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 voted in the 2011 federal election, while the majority of Canadian voters were aged 65-74. This disinterest of young people in politics has become an increasing problem. To determine why it is happening and how to change it, Dylan Playfair, a 23-year-old Canadian from Vancouver, went on a road trip interviewing politicians and young people across North America.
Starting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Playfair met and interviewed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair. When questioned by Playfair, both leaders acknowledged that youth play an important part in politics, and while it’s important for leaders to engage them, it’s often a struggle. From there, Playfair’s next destination was Toronto, just before the 2014 mayoral elections took place. In Toronto, he had a chance to interview Morgan Baskin, an ambitious 18-year-old high school student who was running for mayor. She didn’t run to win; she simply wanted to set an example for the younger generation, and she certainly did.
Playfair’s trip did not end there, as he visited the annual Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada, where he met young Americans and listened to their views on voting. Playfair’s last destination was Missouri, Ferguson, where Michael Brown was killed in the street by a white police officer. After the ensuing riots, young people in Ferguson were considerably more involved in politics, fighting for their rights and to establish justice.
Maalik Shakoor, a resident of Ferguson, was in attendance for the panel discussion, and told us that in spite of the high black population in the city, the racial discrimination did not disappear and living there can be compared to “walking on eggshells.” Yet, Shakoor is positive about the whole situation and believes that change can occur if people vote for the right policy and spend their money wisely to improve the communities they live in.
While Canadians enjoy relative peace and financial, environmental, and social stability, many other people around the globe in developed and developing countries experience serious inequalities. We see it on the news and hear it on the radio but because we personally have not experienced it, we think that we will continue living peacefully and happily ever after. Consequently, many people have started taking democracy for granted.
Andrew Wender, a political science professor from the University of Victoria said, paraphrasing Plato, “The moment we think that everything’s going right and will continue to stay that way is the moment it will actually start going wrong.” In fact, this is already happening, as a Canadian journalist, Jeffrey Simpson, argues that Canada’s government has been under a “friendly dictatorship” for many years, with an enormous amount of power concentrated in the hands of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
So maybe, take a few minutes to vote in the federal election on Oct. 19, because it has been proven that even one voice, as in the case of Morgan Baskin, can be heard and can make a difference. Now is the time to choose who will represent our country!
To learn more about The Drop, including how to purchase an education copy, click here.