It’s time for Nanaimo youth to have a voice in civic politics.
That’s the word from several Wellington Secondary School students, who support the creation of the city’s first-ever advisory youth council.
“It’s a great idea,” said Caitlin Jakobsen, vice-president of the Wellington student council. “It’s going to be our world. Decisions being made by adults now are affecting their present, but it’s our future … [and] we need to have a voice in our future.”
Nanaimo city officials agreed Monday to look at establishing a new advisory youth council, with aims of inspiring greater civic participation and boosting election turnout. The move is the brainchild of city councillor George Anderson, who said that young people tend to be under-represented despite them bearing the future weight of financial decisions made on issues like infrastructure and transportation.
Other communities like Victoria and Saanich have already established similar youth advisory bodies, which have reportedly been successful in creating community ownership and helping municipalities better meet the needs of all their citizens.
“Dude, this is a really cool idea,” said Coun. Bill Bestwick. “I think it’s terrific to engage the youth of our community.”
Students sitting on Wellington’s student council executive agree it would be a good move.
There is an attitude that because youths do not pay taxes, their opinion is not as important as those who do. But young people are the taxpayers of tomorrow, said Paige Turner, Wellington’s council president, adding they should have greater input into how programs and services are shaped.
Claudia Thompson, student council secretary, says youth also use city services differently than adults, giving them a unique perspective on what needs to change. There are also good concepts percolating in the teenage community – “like our school green wall, which produces food and feeds fish in this cycle. If we had a voice we could make a bigger impact and help sustainability ideas grow,” she said.
The Wellington trio also believe an advisory youth council could change election turnout – one of the key hopes of Nanaimo city officials. Youths are taught not to care because they are not involved, they say.
“I think if you want to get people interested you need to give them a voice,” Jakobsen said. “Apathy comes from feeling like you can’t do anything.”
Nanaimo city staff members will be looking into what it will take to create a youth council this fall, including age of membership and budget implications.