Although their ballots won't decide who represents them in Queen's Park, half a million Ontario high school students will be voting on election day.
It's a project called Student Vote 2003, the first major initiative from a non-partisan group called Kids Voting Canada. More than 500 Ontario schools will participate. Classes will use a free curriculum kit to study the issues, create voters lists, examine the candidates and run a simulated provincial election complete with student ballot boxes, vote counters and riding returning officers. In some schools, youth representatives of major political parties have already booked speaking engagements.
"What we really want to do," organizer Taylor Gunn told CBC.ca, "is build the habit of voting." Voter turnout, particularly among young people, has been falling for three decades. By studying the process, comparing the party platforms and participating in a simulated election that closely parallels the actual campaign, Gunn says high school students will get a taste of the power their vote holds and gain a broader understanding of the importance of voting.
|Taylor Gunn speaks with Metro Morning's Andy Barrie. (From Sept. 9; Runs 6:17)|
Part of the introductory voting kit includes a 24-minute video produced by students, chronicling the adventures of two young people about to vote for the first time. Edited into the homegrown drama are real-life interviews with people from many backgrounds, talking about democracy. A teenager born in Iran talks about how voting preserves civil rights; another talks about how he sees other countries at war losing their democracies; a senior says the whole reason he moved to Canada was to raise his family in an atmosphere where they could change the politics of the country simply by participating.
CBC News is a media sponsor of the project, aided by the Toronto Star and many other newspapers across the province. At 7:30 p.m. on election day CBC Newsworld, CBC Television Ontario and CBC.ca will provide exclusive results of the student vote. Newspapers will publish local results the next day for students to take to class.