There is a movement afoot at city hall to get youth engaged in politics.
Nanaimo city councillor George Anderson, a young man himself, has spearheaded the formation of a 12-member youth advisory council, which will meet quarterly with Mayor John Ruttan and council.
The youth council, which will see its membership comprised of 15- to 24-year-olds, will offer advice on civic matters from the point-of-view of youth and Anderson said his motivation was to provide youth with an avenue to learn about municipal government and have their voices heard.
“Everyone deserves to have a voice in society and so realizing that youth tend to be a disenfranchised group that doesn’t usually have their voices heard at the table, local government is looking to fix that,” Anderson previously told the News Bulletin.
By sowing the seeds of political interest early, there is the potential to groom the politicians of tomorrow or at the very least, increase political literacy, leading to a more informed voter base for future elections.
“Youth are disengaged from politics,” is something that is often said and this is echoed by a projection from Elections B.C. that estimates that 48 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds hit the polls in last year’s provincial election.
While establishment of youth councils is a good way to drum up political interest amongst the young, as well as get them up to speed on the municipal political process, there is another thing that will light a fire – age.
There are keeners and go-getters in Nanaimo that can fill the youth advisory council, especially student politicians from various high schools, but by and large, the youth of today aren’t interested in politics, and there is nothing wrong with that.
At that stage of their lives, there are other things to occupy their thoughts. When I was in high school, and even into my early adult years, municipal, federal and provincial politics were the farthest things from my mind. I was more interested in video games, girls and why the metal band Metallica cut their hair.
Sure I knew that Mike Harcourt (I’m dating myself) was premier and Gordon Campbell (believe it or not he was mayor of Vancouver at one time) was head of Vancouver city council but I wasn’t following their politics.
However, as I got older, graduated and entered the workforce, I began to take notice of things like the amount of contributions taken off my paycheque and filing income tax returns.
I had the misfortune of being laid off from a job and thus became versed in the employment insurance system and based on my post-secondary years, got first-hand knowledge of the effect of rising tuition – all of which enlightened me in the ways of the world and in a roundabout way, influenced how I would vote.
I even developed an interest in watching the news. As a youth, sports and entertainment programming dominated my viewing habits and while I still enjoy watching those types of shows, I also enjoy taking in episodes of The West Block, The Fifth Estate and even a televised leaders’ debate during election time. Take a poll of a secondary student in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, or any other school district for that matter, and chances are they will have little or no interest in watching anything politically related.
Youth generally speaking, don’t have an interest in property taxes and the like because it has no bearing on their lives.
But as they get older, they will take an interest and then they will be interested in budget announcements and news of rate hikes.
They will take an interest in politics because, they will come to the realization that they have something valuable, a vote, and they will have a chance to affect change.
While some youth will have interest in politics stimulated with the city youth advisory council, the majority will start gaining interest as they grow older.