Election 2015: Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates chasing youth vote

NANAIMO – As local candidates navigate the campaign trail, all acknowledge that the youth vote can be a factor in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

General voting day is Oct. 19 in Canada's 42nd federal election.

General voting day is Oct. 19 in Canada's 42nd federal election.

Canada’s youth is its future, but it remains to be seen what sort of impact young people will have on the country’s immediate future: the coming federal election.

As local candidates navigate the campaign trail, all acknowledge that the youth vote can be a factor in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Paul Manly, Green candidate, spent some time at Vancouver Island University campus earlier this month with party leader Elizabeth May. They weren’t there to deliver a speech, Manly said, but rather to talk and listen. He said telling young people to get out and vote against something they don’t want isn’t going to work.

“They need to see a vision, they need to see what the future looks like, and how politicians are going to work towards that future,” he said.

When trying to reach the youth demographic, Manly said, it’s an advantage to have volunteers in that age group helping his cause.

“We have young Greens who are active on this campaign, very inspired, working and talking to their friends and engaging their friends and I think that that is just helping us build more momentum.”

Mark MacDonald, Conservative candidate, said aspects of his party’s platform such as job creation should appeal to youths, but admitted that many of the young people he’s hearing from intend to vote socialist or Green.

“Environment is [their] No. 1 issue. Environment, environment, environment. And my point is, look, the Conservatives have managed to balance the needs and wants of the environment with the economy,” MacDonald said.

Sheila Malcolmson, NDP candidate, said she’s aiming for across-the-board engagement, which includes young people. Knocking on doors, she’s coming across a lot of first-time voters who say they’re doing their research on the issues and can’t wait to vote. Already, she’s seen enough evidence to determine that youth voter apathy is a myth.

“They are the ones that are going to take the brunt of bad policy decisions,” Malcolmson said. “We’ve got to be making sure that their work and their family, affordable housing, all of these pieces are sustainable for them.”

Tim Tessier, Liberal candidate, tried to specifically identify youth election issues at a recent round-table meeting with young Liberals, all of them under 25 years old. He said young voters are savvy – public transit improvements and legalization of marijuana might matter to them, but so do jobs, housing affordability and big-picture infrastructure. From what he’s hearing, young people are more inclined to go to the polls if they’re voting for what they want, rather than voting against what they don’t.

“The under-25, the under-40 voters that haven’t voted [before], if they come out, they will change this election,” Tessier said.