While most of them are not old enough to vote yet, students at Dover Bay Secondary School got a taste of the democratic process this week.
The school hosted Nanaimo-Ladysmith 2019 byelection candidates for a forum, with students casting votes in a mock byelection after. Bob Chamberlin, NDP; Jennifer Clarke, People’s Party of Canada; Michelle Corfield, Liberal Party of Canada; John Hirst, Conservative Party of Canada and Paul Manly, Green Party of Canada were in attendance. Brian Marlatt, Progressive Canadian Party candidate, was absent.
According to Alistair King, Dover Bay political studies teacher, there was “dynamic discussion” and all the major issues were covered, but from the scope of the students.
“There were topics about immigration, environment, housing, poverty,” said King. “Issues that are important to young people, like affordability, post-secondary education and there was even a question about lowering the age to vote to 16, which one candidate, Paul Manly, confirmed that that is in his platform and other candidates were also positive in that regard.”
Results from @dover_bay @sd68bc student #NanaimoVotes mock election conducted last week – 457 voting. @paulmanly 48.8%, @ChiefBobbyc 20.8%, @JohnHirst2019 18.6%, @micorfield 9.6%, @JenniferMClarke 2.2% #canpoli
— Karl Yu (@KarlYuBulletin) May 7, 2019
The B.C. government is responsible for education and even though the candidates are running federally, there are still links, according to King. He gave the example of a question from a student about recently elected governments, specifically Alberta and Ontario, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights and privacy.
“It was a very informed question,” said King. “She realized that it wasn’t, obviously, a federal jurisdiction issue, but she asked the question, put them on the spot and the candidates came back with a wide variety of answers and some of them recognized that while an education issue was a provincial matter, at the same time, the money that flows to provincial governments for education can be adjusted … in a way that would prevent provincial governments from making these kinds of decisions that have a great impact on marginalized youth.”
Voting was open to all Dover Bay students and King said surprisingly, many Grade 8s were interested in learning about the various platforms.
The school’s enrolment is 1,400 and more than 500 students voted, said King. Results won’t be made available until May 6, the day of the byelection.
In terms of political interest among students, King said he thinks federal elections have “more gravity.”
“When you compare it to the municipal election, I think a lot of parents are talking about the federal election,” said King. “It is a byelection, which means that we don’t get a lot of national coverage, but there are a lot of people talking about federal politics at home, so the kids were really engaged.”