Calgary·Calgary Votes 2021

'An uncertain time': Students looking at jobs, transit and COVID ahead of municipal vote

The Students' Union at the University of Calgary is trying to raise awareness about the municipal election, with a mayoral forum streaming live Thursday afternoon and a "Get out the Vote" booth.

Calgary student leaders hope to cut through confusion and mobilize the younger vote

University of Calgary Students' Union vice-president Marley Gillies is trying to make sure students have the information they need to vote. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

The busing system, support for small businesses and action on COVID-19 were all top priorities on students' minds Thursday at the University of Calgary.

The Students' Union is trying to raise awareness about the municipal election, with a mayoral forum streaming live Thursday afternoon and a "Get out the Vote" booth. SU vice-president Marley Gillies said students can enter for prizes if they promise to vote, and it's also a chance to clear up any misinformation. 

"Students are a little confused. There's a lot of noise, a lot of elections. But now that the federal election has come and gone, we're focusing 100 per cent on the municipal election," Gillies said.

She lives in Ward 1, near the university, and says she'll be watching what candidates say on transit and housing affordability. She says many students are also concerned with job opportunities and lifestyle; those things can keep them here or be part of a decision to leave after graduation.

"All of my connections and my base is here," said Gillies. "But I've heard from many students that they're looking elsewhere, just because of the opportunities and affordability. The energy and vibrancy that they're looking for from a city doesn't exist here at the moment."

CBC Calgary talked to a dozen students on campus. We'll be using what we learn to shape our coverage, both during this election campaign and after. You're invited to add your thoughts here.

University of Calgary education student Lindsay Chretien. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Lindsay Chretien

"The one I've been following the most would be the trustee election, and my biggest thing would be I want them to talk about their response with COVID restrictions," said Lindsay Chretien, an education student.

Teachers now online may be heading back to teach in person next year. Will that mean fewer new hires when she graduates in May, she wondered. 

"It's kind of an uncertain time. What's that going to look like if that pool of people they're hiring is going to be very small?"

 

First-year university student Josh Osah. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Josh Osah

Josh Osah, a first-year student studying communications and media studies, says the main thing he wants candidates to be talking about is fixing the transit system because it takes him more than an hour to get to the University of Calgary from his home in the the southwest.

"The transit system, because where I live, the transit system isn't good at all," he said. "So fixing the transit system would be nice."

Kate Finlay wants to hear the municipal candidates talk about youth. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Kate Finlay 

Kate Finlay grew up in Huntington Hills, which she says is a middle-class community full of amenities and events held at the community centre. She's studying education and wants to hear candidates talking about places for youth.

"It's important for them to be advocating for youth," she said. "With myself being an educator, youth rights is important and making spaces where they can feel safe, places for them to play and spend their time, especially during a pandemic like this. There's been a lot of uncertainty for them. That's hard on their mental health. We need places for them to live their lives and grow into adults."

Kira Wright wants to hear how candidates would control the pandemic. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Kira Wright

Kira Wright, who just moved back to Calgary from B.C., says she wants candidates to be focused on getting past the pandemic. 

"I'm done with this. I took a gap year to get rid of online courses and now all my courses are also online," she said. "I don't know how, but they need to help people get vaccinated."

Suki Gohill works as a barber in addition to being a student. (Elise Stolte/CBC)

Suki Gohill

Suki Gohill, who lives in Mission, is studying archeology at the University of Calgary.

"I'm feeling discouraged because I haven't really loved any of the candidates. Nobody has really made a strong mark or presence so far," she said.

"I'd like to see them talking more about revitalizing local business. My job has been affected by the pandemic. I work as a barber. I'd love to see candidates describe what they would do to promote (business) or give us more clarification on what they would do to with COVID-19 mandates, especially for personal services and restaurants."


What would you like the candidates to be talking about, both for your neighbourhood and the city? Tell us about it, give us some detail and together we can dig deeper into some key election issues. You're invited to add your thoughts here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elise Stolte

Journalist

Elise Stolte has 15 years of experience telling the stories of her community and has been recognized for feature writing, social-impact and community-based journalism. She previously worked for the Edmonton Journal and joined CBC Calgary this summer.

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