Op-ed: This election, youth must vote — whatever your politics

We have the numbers, so let's go make a difference

Op-ed: This election, youth must vote — whatever your politics

My name is Saeda Ali and I’m a volunteer with a non-partisan, non-profit organization called Future Majority at UTSC.

Future Majority is working to get students out to vote in the upcoming federal election to accelerate our values as young Canadians into the forefront of political decision-making. We are operating in more than 20 campuses, in 40 ridings, with over 600 volunteers.

I was inspired to volunteer with Future Majority at UTSC because I wanted to remind my peers that our concerns about our futures matter and need to be taken seriously by politicians. More often than not, young people underestimate the power of their vote. We fail to inform ourselves about how current policies impact us because many of us don’t believe that politicians listen to us.

When I found out that Millennials and Generation-Z — those aged 18–34 — now make up the largest voting bloc in Canada, I knew I had to get involved. Our vote can change the trajectory of the election and the political landscape of Canada.

While volunteering with Future Majority, I’ve been able to go around campus and speak to fellow students about the upcoming election. I have heard first-hand accounts of the issues that are impacting young Canadians. Three issues have repeatedly been brought up: the rising cost of education, unaffordable housing in the GTA, and the climate crisis.

With the recent changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, there is a heightened concern around the mountains of student debt students now face after graduation — which is especially worrisome considering it is more and more difficult to get a good job after graduating in order to pay off loans.

Trying to find a place to live — especially in the GTA — is increasingly unaffordable for young Canadians. This has forced many students to live at home or commute long distances to university — sometimes an hour-and-a-half each way!

The climate crisis is the biggest issue brought up by U of T students. People are scared for their futures. The United Nations has given us less than 11 years to solve this problem. This means we need action, like, yesterday. Many students expressed concern that no political party is going to do enough to reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable business practices. Many U of T students want to see Canada become a world leader in preserving and protecting the environment for future generations. We can make sure that happens.

As a Political Science major, I have learned that one of the fundamental aspects of democracy is the right to vote. Canadians have the privilege of choosing their political representatives. In a world where not everyone is afforded this opportunity, the right to vote should not be taken lightly.

With schedules filled with lectures, tutorials, and extracurricular commitments, many students find that they simply can’t find time to go out of their way to find a polling station. Luckily, voting has become more accessible for students than ever before.

Students at all three U of T campuses have the option of voting on their campus from Saturday, October 5 to Wednesday, October 9. Students voting at on-campus polling stations have the option of voting for either candidates from their home riding or school riding, if they have the right documentation.

There will be 121 stations set up at 109 schools, making it easier than ever for students across the nation to vote. This is a huge increase from the 39 on-campus polling stations that were set up in the 2015 election.

If you are curious about how to vote you can visit the Go Vote! website— a microsite developed by Future Majority to educate young Canadians about the election.

Future Majority will be bringing attention to on-campus polling stations by hiring canvassers at UTM and UTSC during the on-campus polling week to literally walk thousands of students to the polls.

Future Majority is projected to walk 30,000 students directly to polls, coast-to-coast. This could have a significant impact on an election that is predicted to be tight.

This October, young Canadians have the power to send a message to every political party that we can no longer be ignored. If U of T students vote in high numbers, we can influence ridings across the entire GTA. We can ensure that no political party can win without the youth vote — they literally cannot ignore us!

By getting out to vote in high numbers, politicians will no longer get elected if they don’t promise to address the issues which matter to youth. Given the power that we now hold, this election is our opportunity to have our voices finally heard and create a Canada that addresses the concerns we have for our futures.

Saeda Ali is a second-year Political Science and International Development student at UTSC and a volunteer at Future Majority.

Elxn 2019 and the Climate Crisis: A Youth Town Hall

Join us on Thursday October 3rd at the Tranzac Club from 6-8 PM as we discuss what it means to vote for the climate in the upcoming federal election. The night will be kicked off by a youth panel of climate, labour, and migrant justice activists, and then we will have a quick discussion on climate action with local MP candidates from across the GTA before splitting off into a roundtable town hall with all of the candidates, where you’ll get to speak one-on-one with candidates about their plans for climate action.

UTSG: Climate First Tour — David Suzuki, Stephen Lewis & Buffy Sainte-Marie

David Suzuki, Stephen Lewis, and Buffy Sainte-Marie will be speaking at U of T’s Convocation Hall. These notable climate change experts and environmental advocates will speak about the current issues facing youth as they inherit the challenges of a dramatically changing planet. The goal of the Climate First Tour is to urge Canadians to consider environmental issues as they head to the polls at the 2019 federal election.

Dr. David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis urge U of T students to vote “Climate First”

Climate crisis should be a top priority for voters in the federal election, say the activists

Dr. David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis urge U of T students to vote “Climate First”

Dr. David Suzuki, a prominent Canadian environmentalist and author, and Stephen Lewis, a respected humanitarian and former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations (UN), are advocating for the climate crisis to be a key issue in Canada’s upcoming federal election.

As part of a tour called “Climate First,” Suzuki, Lewis, and Indigenous activist and singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie are speaking about their advocacy at U of T’s Convocation Hall on September 14

The environmentalists are advocating for U of T students to support candidates who prioritize fighting the climate crisis in this year’s election on October 21.

The opportunity of the upcoming federal election

In the 2015 Canadian federal election, the Liberal Party of Canada won a parliamentary majority with the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As the Canadian federal election is fast approaching, Suzuki and Lewis have felt it crucial to draw voters’ attention to the effect this election’s result could potentially have on climate change.

Suzuki and Lewis spoke to The Varsity about their perspectives. “We want the next four years for Canada to play a leading role internationally in getting the world to recognize that we are in danger of self-destruction if we don’t respond dramatically,” explained Lewis.

Lewis continued by listing a series of catastrophic consequences of significant rise in average global temperature, including “the destruction of agricultural land, the melting of the polar caps, the inundation of the coastal regions, the way in which people are experiencing upheaval, [and] millions of [people displaced by the crisis] as it gets worse and worse.”

Controversy on 11 years left to save the climate

Lewis highlighted the urgency of the matter, saying that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has “made it clear that there are only 11 years left to save the planet.”

The IPCC is an association of the UN that aims to provide regular scientific assessments of the climate crisis.

The deadline has been reaffirmed by UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, according to a press release.

However, the widespread stance that there are 11 years left to save the climate has been controversial among climate scientists.

“We don’t have 12 years to prevent climate change — we have no time,” said Dr. Kate Marvel, a NASA scientist, in a January 2019 interview with Axios. “[C]limate change isn’t a cliff we fall off — it’s a slope we slide down.”

Scientists writing in Nature Climate Change have also challenged the legitimacy of setting a deadline for the climate crisis, though research institutes such as Concordia University maintain that a tipping point could be in 11 years.

Regardless of the deadline’s controversy, 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans, according to NASA. Both Marvel and the writers of the Nature opinion piece agree that the climate crisis is an urgent issue that people should address.

How U of T students can fight the climate crisis in the upcoming election

When it comes to what U of T students can do to help fight climate change, Suzuki encourages them to positively get involved in voting for the election.

Since young adults from the ages of 18–22 traditionally have a poor record of voting, Suzuki thinks it necessary for current U of T students to be aware of the “big decisions” the government can make on the issue of climate change. 

“We want to remind the students at the University of Toronto that they’re going to face [the consequences of the climate crisis],” reinforced Lewis.

Suzuki encouraged voters to treat climate crisis advocacy as warfare. Framing the crisis this way, he added, enables voters and political representatives to “respond as a single country, as if we were going to war.”

Students should attend campaign meetings to raise the issue of the climate crisis, Lewis noted, and advocate to their parents and friends about the urgency of the crisis. Crucially, said Lewis and Suzuki, students should prioritize the climate crisis at the ballot box.

“You ought to be voting for people that are saying that climate is an issue of the highest priority,” said Suzuki.

Scarborough student union election results in split executive

Shine Bright UTSC’s Chemi Lhamo wins presidency

Scarborough student union election results in split executive

After two weeks of campaigning, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) election results have been released, and next year’s executive will be split between the two major slates.

Current SCSU Vice-President Equity Chemi Lhamo of Shine Bright UTSC will be the next president, winning 837 votes to defeat independent John John. SCSYou’s presidential candidate Anup Atwal was disqualified from the race at midnight before the voting period began on February 5. There were 124 spoiled ballots in the presidential race.

SCSYou’s Carly Sahagian was elected Vice-President Academics & University Affairs over Shine Bright UTSC candidate Raymond Dang, who currently sits on the student union’s board as Director of Political Science. The count was 837–594, with 82 spoiled ballots.

SCSYou candidate Chaman Bukhari, co-president of the Pakistani Students’ Association, will be the next Vice-President External. He won against Shine Bright UTSC’s Kalkidan Alemayehu. The count was 790–602, with 61 spoiled ballots.

Sarah Mohamed of Shine Bright UTSC won the election for Vice-President Campus Life over independent Shehtabbanu Shaikh. Rival slate SCSYou did not put up a candidate for the position. The count was 950–407, with 111 spoiled ballots.

For Vice-President Operations and Vice-President Equity, there was a difference of less than five per cent between each candidate.

According to the SCSU Elections Procedure Code, this means an automatic recount will take place.

The Vice-President Operations race was between SCSYou candidate Rayyan Alibux and Shine Bright UTSC candidate Kevin Turingan. The Vice-President Equity race was between SCSYou candidate Tebat Kadhem and Shine Bright UTSC candidate Leon Tsai.

The Academics & University Affairs race had the highest voter turnout at 1,513 votes. According to SCSU’s website, its membership numbers at around 14,000 students, meaning that, at most, the voter turnout was a little more than 10 per cent.

Out of the 16 seats available on the Board of Directors, Shine Bright UTSC won seven, SCSYou won four, an independent candidate won one, and the remaining four had less than a five per cent difference and will be sent to a recount.

 

Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Re: "The Faith Goldy effect"

Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Dear Anastasia,

You fell into her trap. Faith Goldy, a University of Toronto alum and famous white nationalist convinced you through her polite manner of conversation that she should have a place at the debate stage. Faith Goldy is a fringe candidate, the highest degree of extremist, and she is following the trends of other prominent white nationalists in their quests to moderate their image in order to spread their hateful messages.

You had said that because Goldy has been left in the dark that she is getting more attention, and this may be true, but you came to the wrong conclusion. Goldy is getting more attention because she has turned this election into her own personal circus — and the media ate it up. She protested at every debate, using the values that we hold dear against us to make us feel as though she deserved a place on stage. She wants us to feel like she belongs, she desperately craves it, and so she loudly protested against “bias.”

What about other fringe candidates who ran for mayor — one of whom, Kevin Clarke, was kicked out of the Mayoral Forum on Affordable Housing held at OISE — which was also protested by Goldy – despite being a strong advocate for the homeless and poverty in this city. In your argument, why should only the loudest and craziest be allowed in debates, and not all candidates?

Your argument assumes that Goldy would attend a debate in good faith (forgive the lack of a better word). It is a noted white nationalist and alt-right tactic to derail a debate by throwing falsehoods on the debate stage, leaving the serious candidates to clean it up — often forgoing their own time on stage to defend against these lies. The tactic is often called a “Gish Gallop,” the tactic which forces the opponent to defend against a wall of arguments, despite their lack of merit or validity.

Giving her a platform to spew her hatred in order to debate her and try to take her down civilly is a false dream and can only win her more support. There is no “gotcha” moment, she openly admits to her horrid beliefs, it is impossible to “catch” her. All debating her does is give her a message with a wider audience – that is why she wants to debate so bad, she wants to use her dog whistles in front of an audience of millions. She would not debate the issues at hand, instead she would continuously spread false information about the city, or other candidates — one example can be noted from her protestors and their continuous use of the word “communist” to describe John Tory, something I think anyone sane can agree is absolutely not true.

The real reason why Goldy has gained support is because the media thrives on controversy, and they have endlessly covered this campaign and all of its intricacies without thinking of the consequences. The fact that we in the normal sphere of politics think that we need to debate these bigots shows that we truly believe in democratic principles and norms. The fact that she is even being asked about in official polls is a farce –— why should she have any more right to that representation than any of the other candidates who are running for mayor? Her constant coverage because of her fringe views is a tool for revenue and clicks on a website — we are doing this openly, and without regret (until after the fact). These people are not assembling underground, they are assembling at our doorstep with the intention to trick their way into our minds by using the values we hold dear, while in the same breath promising to destroy these very values.

P.S. — speaking of articles you could have written about University of Toronto Alumni and their political careers, Mayor John Tory attended Trinity College, graduating in 1975.

Lucas Granger

UTSU Innis College Director

Editor’s Note (October 23): To clarify, whilst Lucas Granger is on the Board of Directors of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, this letter represents his personal opinion on this matter and not the union’s.

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

Young voters are least likely to vote but have the highest stake in our political future

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

As millennials have demographically surpassed the baby boomers, young people have the most political power of any other voting bloc for the first time. And according to Elections Canada, their participation is improving. About 57.1 per cent of those eligible to vote aged 18 to 24 took the time to do so for the 2015 general election, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

However, compare that to the 78.8 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 who came out to the polls in 2015, and Canada’s youngest voters appear to be the least interested in engaging in the democratic process. Young people’s interests are effectively underrepresented in the dominant political discourse. This is most clearly reflected in the direction that current provincial policy is taking.

According to the Canadian Millennials Report conducted by Abacus Data, young people are more comfortable with interventionist government action, believing that corporations should pay more taxes and that the government should be more responsible for redistributing wealth. In general, they prioritize spending over balancing the budget in order to alleviate systemic issues like income inequality, and are skeptical of free market fundamentalism.

When asked to choose, 54 per cent suggest that Canada would benefit from a more socialist system. These views are quite inconsistent with the fiscal conservatism touted by the current provincial government.

Perhaps youth voter turnout is relatively low because millennials feel like they have less of a stake in today’s society. Today, people get married, have children, and buy homes much later on in their lives, if they choose to at all.

According to the 2016 Census, millennials aged 20 to 34 are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to still live with their parents, compared to baby boomers in 1981. By comparison, older homeowners and parents may be more concerned with political affairs because of policies that directly affect them, such as property taxes and child care.

Additionally, the transient lifestyles of some millennials may also lead to lower voter turnout, as proof of their current residential address is required to vote. Since people are settling down later on in life, a growing number of people have relatively temporary addresses.

For example, when I was living in residence during my first year at U of T, I assumed that I would not be able to vote in my first election because I did not have any mail to use as my proof of current address. I could have voted in my parent’s ward, where my mail was sent, but that was far away and inconvenient.

I later discovered that if you do not have a permanent residential address, your building administrator can fill out a form called a Certificate of Identity and Residence that will suffice in getting you a ballot, in lieu of mailed documents.  On quite short notice, I was happy to vote in my first ever election after a quick visit to my registrar. Now, the myvote.toronto.ca website makes it simpler to find out what ward you live in, who is running in your ward, and what identification is needed to cast a ballot.

The municipal elections are taking place on October 22, and millennials deserve to have their voices heard and more of a say in the policies shaping our incredible and unique city. An uptick in voter turnout during the last general election shows that young adults are starting to pay more attention to politics.

This may be because stakes are perceived to be higher in today’s political climate. With a culture war quietly raging in the south and populism trickling into Canadian politics, the climate crisis becoming ever more apparent with increasingly intense extreme weather events, and the economy being never too far away from a recession, young people may become more motivated to participate in the democratic process. And so they should be.

We are the ones that will have to deal with the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, globalization, and neoliberalism. We are the ones that will be affected for decades to come by the short-sighted and unsustainable decisions of antiquated policymakers today. We are the least likely to vote. But the ones that need to vote the most are us.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

UTMSU executive candidates face off in debate

Election to take place March 7–9

UTMSU executive candidates face off in debate

The campaign period for the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections are in full swing, and the executive candidates faced off at UTM’s Blind Duck Pub in a two hour debate on March 1.

There are two slates competing in this year’s election compared to four last year. No incumbents are running for re-election, and two of the candidates are UTMSU associates. The slates, Fresh UTM and UTM First, presented platforms that advocate for international student rights, U-Pass expansion, and healthier food options on campus.

President

Running for President with Fresh UTM is Salma Fakhry, who is Associate to the UTMSU Vice-President University Affairs and Academics. Her platform includes providing accessible education and reviewing UTM’s student centre expansion.

Alex Gignac is UTM First’s presidential candidate. Gignac’s platform advocates for a tier rewards system for club funding, which would see more funding provided to new clubs that participate in more events.

Additionally, he advocated for U-Pass expansion throughout Brampton and Oakville. All UTM students are provided with a U-Pass, which allows for unlimited access to MiWay for a mandatory fee charged to their student accounts.

When asked about the student centre expansion, Fakhry stated that at the last UTMSU Annual General Meeting, students voted ‘yes’ on a student centre expansion.

Fakhry said, “We must consult our student body. We cannot do this alone… We must lobby with the administration to find… an accessible funding model that actually takes pressure off students. We don’t want students to be paying extra money, because this is their right and this is their space.”

Gignac stated that he also advocates for the expansion: “We’re going to have to sit down with the university because the most important thing is that they cover a good chunk of the expenses… There will be no increased tuition for the student centre.”

Vice-President Internal and Services

Vikko Qu from Fresh UTM is running unopposed for Vice-President Internal and Services. His platform focuses on expanding limited accessibility and study space on campus.

Qu proposes making the U-Pass GTA-wide. When asked how he plans to establish a GTA-wide pass, Qu noted that he was involved in the GTA U-Pass conversation last year as Associate to the Vice-President Internal.

“What will happen this year is that first, we’ll consult the students by running surveys, by collecting data, by collecting information. And second, we’ll be talking to our levy groups, clubs and societies, and third, we’ll be running a referendum so that our students can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’  [on whether] they want a GTA U-Pass,” Qu said. “We’ll present all the information to the government, to Metrolinx, so our students’ demands can be consented.”

Vice-President External

Ali Taha is UTM First’s candidate for Vice-President External. Taha, who currently serves on the UTMSU Board of Directors, stated that his goal as Vice-President External would be to unite the three campuses. He also aims for a diversity of opinions on campus.

Jose Wilson is running for the same position with Fresh UTM. Wilson’s platform is centred on activism for part-time students.

The Vice-President External candidates were questioned at the debate on how they planned to reinstate the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for international students.

Taha stated that, after some research, he learned OHIP was rescinded for international students in 1994, as the government did not feel it was feasible to implement the program for international students.

He noted that re-instating the program for international students would be very difficult and instead advocated for increased support for international students. “I would like to see more support and services for international students, like international ambassadors to be able to be appointed as [the point of] contact for international students when they get here,” said Taha.

Wilson noted that he is an international student, that he understood how expensive the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) is, and how it lacks coverage.

He said, “I remember a conversation with [Qu] where he mentioned that in order to take a ride in an ambulance, you would have to pay $500, because the ambulance does not take the UHIP coverage… We want to take a look at lobbying MPPs and premiers about re-instating OHIP for international students.”

Vice-President Equity

Sagal Osman is running for Vice-President Equity with UTM Fresh. She cites her experience as an executive with the Black Students’ Association as a reason for her involvement. Osman wants to expand safe spaces on campus in addition to combating Islamophobia, sexism, and racism on campus.

UTM First’s Vice-President Equity candidate is Mduduzi Mhlanga, who wants to focus on finances and on-campus affordability.

The Vice-President Equity candidates were asked about how they planned to implement the Sexual Violence Policy at UTM.

Osman stated that she would like to see “an annual review of this policy. We need constant change so that we can keep advocating and keep implementing policies that keep communities spoken for and included.”

She noted that the policy provides support for perpetrators and wants to see the policy edited to make it “survivor-centric.”

“Our human rights need to be advocated for and spoken for, and if we can’t do that then we need to change that right now,” Osman said.

Mhlanga countered by saying he believed it was far more important to “find a solution that works and stick with it.”

“But overall, I believe that UTM is a very safe campus… so I believe that we have made real strides in achieving equality and equity despite sexual orientation, despite ethnic identification, despite your gender,” Mhlanga stated. “I believe that for this policy, it’s far more important to hear student’s opinions and see what they think needs to be changed, and then try to advocate for that change as well, once we again make sure the solution is viable.”

Vice-President University Affairs

and Academics

UTM First candidate Christina Khokar wants students to have a better understanding of tuition fees, along with more information sessions related to tuition. Khokhar advocates for increased opt-out options from fees and levies.

Fresh UTM candidate Maya Tomkiewicz stated that students are often unaware of what is included in student policies. She is advocating for increased visibility of these policies on campus.

When asked what the governing council on campus does, Khokhar stated that UTM operates as a democracy. “I also want to improve this process by having a longer election period so we can get across to more people… right now, our voter turnout is only 35 per cent… I think everyone should have a voice… and I think everyone should recognize the value of these elections,” she said.

Tomkiewicz clarified that the UTM Campus Council is a subsection of the Governing Council: “They make decisions about different issues like academic policies, parking fees, tuition. Unfortunately, there is very little student representation on this council.”

Tomkiewicz then advocated for further representation of students on the council.

Voting takes place from March 7–9 at Davis Building, Instructional Centre, CCT Building, and Deerfield Hall.