Nanaimo university encourages student voting in upcoming election

VIU hopes to gather 1,500 pledges for students to vote on May 9

As the provincial election draws near, one Nanaimo organization is making sure post-secondary students are informed.

Vancouver Island University Students’ Union has spent the last three months educating students about the upcoming May 9 election and how the voting process works in British Columbia.

Phoebe Patigdas, student union chairwoman, said her organization has held various events on campus, including an all-candidates meeting, and that the whole goal is to ensure students are well-informed about the election.

“It’s been ongoing conversations with students at Vancouver Island University on helping them plan out when they are voting, figuring out what issues they care about and helping them navigate through the process,” she said. “Our aim here is to be a resource for these students.”

Elections B.C. has also gone to the campus twice to help students become registered voters, according to Patigdas, who said the union is also collecting pledges from students promising they will vote, and hopes to receive 1,500 pledges by the end of the week.

“We’re at 1,200 pledges already,” she said. “We are doing this last push in the last few weeks leading up to the election. We also have online pledges and we will be very active on social media ensuring that we continue this conversation.”

The effort by the students’ union is part of a provincewide initiative called Students Are Voting, which aims to mobilize post-secondary students to vote in the provincial election. Patigdas said another reason for holding a pledge campaign is to gauge what issues are most important to students.

“We are working with other universities around the province to reach out to students and get the conversation going about the election and we also use these pledges as a lobbying tool when we talk to different candidates within our riding. This is similar to what other [post-secondary] schools are doing in the province,” she said.

Patigdas said the main concerns she’s heard from Vancouver Island University students revolve around affordable housing, education and access to health care.

“Affordable housing is one thing that students are concerned about, even in Nanaimo,” she said. “Most people think it mostly only applies on the mainland, but the truth of the matter is that it happens here in Nanaimo and on the Island; that is one of the main conversations we are having here with students at Vancouver Island University.”