CBC News Federal Election

Student Vote 2004

Student Vote 2004 makes itself heard in Newmarket.

By Amanda Taccone
Student Vote 2004 Youthbeat
June 9, 2004

Amanda Taccone
Amanda Taccone  

Voices rang out in the grand hall at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Newmarket, Ontario, at lunch break Wednesday.

"Exercise your democratic right to vote!"

"Come on and vote!"

This is Student Vote 2004 in action. There are tour tables, one for each grade level, staffed by students trying to get their peers to cast their ballots in a mock election. They've got a good location. Students can't get to the cafeteria without passing at least two of the tables, where a dozen students ask if they've voted.

Sacred Heart School, Newmarket  

"There are 1,200 students and we're trying to get all of them to vote," says 17 year-old Ashley Herridge, the returning officer for her school. Herridge hopes that getting people used to voting earlier will encourage them to vote in the future. "After all," she says, "it could be one deciding vote that puts someone in office."

That's the message her teacher, James Castronovo, hopes students will take away from this experience. As Sacred Heart's politics and law teacher, he's the driving force behind bringing Student Vote 2004 to the school. He's been organizing political debates since 1993, and on June 2 the candidates in the Newmarket-Aurora riding took their turn at a debate packed with students, with Belinda Stronach (Conservative), Ed Chudak (NDP), Martha Hall Findlay (Liberal) and Dorian Baxter (Progressive Canadian) in attendance.

Castronovo says, "Candidate debates are a good way to follow-up [classes on politics], to acquaint students with the issues and policies and help them get active in the process...the only way to turn [youth apathy] around is to create interest."

Jennifer Snowdon and Alexandra Hubbard, both 16 and in Grade 10, have just voted. Snowdon says events like the debate and Student Vote 2004 "help people get involved." Hubbard agrees, adding, "We know how important this is. People have a lot of concerns in life, and you have to make a choice because of the things you care about."

Steve Goldby, 17, is the captain of the team trying to get Grade 11 students to vote. He hopes that his fellow students will want to vote so that they can express their opinions on the things that matter. "It's important," Goldby says. "A lot of young people have a problem with adults getting what they want, while young people aren't getting what they need."

Goldby believes that for many students, financial issues are at the top of their lists, especially for those graduating and heading off to university or college in September. But not everyone at the polls is as sold on casting their ballots. Annie Robinson and Lisa Decchia are both 14, and neither is enthusiastic about having the chance to vote. Decchia nods as Robinson says, "I don't think we should be able to vote, we haven't experienced enough to make the right decision."

Robinson and Decchia agree that a lot of young people don't vote mainly because, like themselves, they don't know enough about the issues or how to get involved, but they think that at least Student Vote 2004 is a good introduction to the process, even though they don't think their vote will make any difference.

Castronovo disagrees. He hopes that releasing the results to the community, especially if they are radically different from the results in the Newmarket-Aurora riding on election day, will "demonstrate that there is a conflict between young people and the rest of the electorate."

Ultimately, that's the point of Student Vote 2004. It can prove that youth aren't apathetic, just uniformed, and unwilling to make a decision based on incomplete information. It can also get them on track, so they can make an informed decision in the future.

Robinson, for one, says she will make sure she gets informed when it's her time to vote for real.

The Newmarket results will be released with the rest of the Student Vote results on election night here at cbc.ca/canadavotes.

Past Columns


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Canada's Young Voters

SpinOff  Meet the youngest candidates in this election. more »

The Great Canadian Job Interview  The Great Canadian Job Interview. more »

National Results Summary  National Results Summary more »

External Links

  • Student Vote 2004

  • Apathy is Boring

  • Rush the Vote

  • Vote out Loud

  • Elections Canada Online

  • Think Education
  • Anti Apathy
  • Young women vote

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