Students from NDSS were among the 300,000 across Ontario that went to the polls yesterday to vote for the next provincial government as part of the Student Vote initiative.
While the majority of the students will not truly be able to influence the slate of representatives at Queen’s Park for the legislature’s next session, they will have learned a bit about what the parties and candidates stand for and about the way their province and country is governed.
“It’s an effort to encourage students to be aware of the world outside of NDSS and to engage them early in the democratic process,” explained teacher Tiffiny Donnan, who organized this year’s vote. Yesterday morning, the students were cast their ballots. They’d then tabulate the results and report to Civix, a non-partisan organization overseeing the count across the province. Civix releases its results after the polls close on election night so they can be compared with the actual election numbers.
Donnan, who had taught civics in the past, has been finding resources about the election and encouraging them to share information with their classes. For example, Donnan points to the CBC’s online Vote Compass tool, which would allow students to enter their opinions about critical policy issues and see which parties’ policies align with their own views.
This year, Donnan was also able to organize two meet-the-candidates’ meetings during first period last Thursday in the school’s cafeteria and invited senior classes to take part. Liberal Tim Rigby, Progressive Conservative Daryl Kramp, Trillium candidate Lonnie Herrington, Green candidate Sari Watson, and NDP candidate Nate Smelle’s campaign manager Roberta Lamb spoke to the students — and most stayed after their formal presentation to field questions from attentive participants.
Donnan said it’s always important that students can hear directly from the candidates, but this year it was particularly so. With the election being held in June, she noted that a number of the Grade 12 and fifth-year students have already reached the age of majority and they’ll be voting in their first election.
Zack Wheeler is one of those students. The Stone Mills resident said it has been a different experience for him this year, knowing that he’s actually going to cast a ballot on election day.
“It’s different and it’s really eye opening. You really pay attention to it,” he said. “Before you’d just look at the heads (of the parties) and see whose personality you like the most. This is new.”
Wheeler said he had the gist of most of the party’s plans, but the face-to-face experience last Thursday allowed him to learn more and get past some preconceptions. He noted going in, he thought the Progressive Conservatives were going to “make cuts willy-nilly” but after listening to Kramp, he wasn’t convinced that was the case.
He said the presentations made him consider his decisions.
“You got to see who had their stuff together and who didn’t,” he said.
Asked about matters that caught his interest during the discussion, Wheeler, who plans to attend Cambrian College in Sudbury next year, said tuition was one he was following as there appears to be more student debt than there had been in the past. The health-care system was also a concern and Wheeler raised questions about it.
“The health-care system is flawed. They talked about sinking money into it, but I don’t know if they’re sinking the right money into it,” he said.
For more information, please visit www.studentvote.ca.