Most candidates promise to be “more engaged” with their community and with voters, but it is rare to hear talk about being more engaged with youth voters, those that are in the 18-25 age demographic. This is the group that (if they aren’t already) will pay taxes, own houses and use city services for longer than any other current voting demographic. This is the group that will make careers, run businesses and raise families in Winnipeg, and yet their voice is largely absent from decisions being made at City Hall. There are numerous possible explanations as to why youth engagement is so low:
- Opportunities to engage are inconvenient due to times and locations.
- They don’t see themselves represented among those making decisions.
- A lack of encouragement to understand the issues.
The City should make every effort to solve these issues, as youth voters will have to deal with, and pay for, the choices made for the longest period of time. One of my main goals as a candidate is to encourage more young people to offer their opinions on civic matters and be able to make an informed vote. As a member of this age group I am hopeful that young people, by seeing someone their age on the ballot, will realize that they do not have to wait to make their voices heard. This is an issue I am passionate about, and if elected as councillor I will do everything I can to make sure the youth voice is heard loud and clear at City Hall. Among the steps I will push the city to implement are:
- Ensure that city departments and elected officials have a broad social media presence. As more people, especially youth, use social media as a place to obtain information and interact with one another, the city must take advantage of this opportunity. A site such as Twitter allows younger voters to engage with the city in a way they are familiar and comfortable with.
- Increase awareness of advance voting options at Universities and College campuses. Locating polling stations in areas with a high concentration of youth voters allows the city to reach those that may not otherwise have the opportunity to vote.
- Use university and college campuses to host community consultations and information sessions. This would expand the reach of these consultations and increase the amount of feedback from the 18-25 age group.
- Partner with school divisions to provide opportunities for civic engagement. Encouraging councillors to visit high schools provides an opportunity to hear from future voters and allows students a chance ask questions of their city’s elected officials.