When a group of five Grade 11 students at Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, Ont., were asked if they were paying attention to the municipal election, they all said no.
Aiden Devine says he can't vote yet, so he's not following the election as closely as maybe he should. But he also believes candidates could do a better job of trying to talk to him and his classmates.
"Outreach to younger people just isn't there," he said.
"I find a lot of the candidates tend to reach toward more of the older generation because they tend to vote more and care more. But I feel like if we got younger people to vote, then there would be a lot of change."
Zuhal Haidary said municipal candidates don't appear to be making an effort to reach young people.
"A lot of teenagers are on social media. So we'd pay attention if there's some ads on Instagram or maybe TikTok," she said.
It's not that Haidary isn't interested in politics. She said she'd like to become a lawyer and federal politics appeals to her because she doesn't see herself reflected in politicians.
"I'm actually new in Canada and now I'm getting into this," she said. "When I see some politicians work and stuff, there's a lot of white people, so I really want to be one of the people of colour in there … I want to be the change."
Talk to teens before they can vote
Abigail Sevigny said their dad is "very into politics" and so he's talked about the election.
But they agreed with Devine: "There's definitely not enough outreach to younger kids."
"Adding more publicity to social media, schools — it would make kids, like even before you're of voting age, more interested. So then when you're of voting age, you're intrigued and you want to vote," Sevigny said.
The five students spoke to Craig Norris, host of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition, about the municipal election. They're all in George Fletcher's Grade 11 law class.
"To me and to younger people, that just kind of feels like it's not a priority to politicians," Sevigny added.
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"Politicians are older, often white men. And so for people of colour, for women, things like that, it makes you almost discouraged to get involved in things like that because you don't feel like you're being represented and you don't feel like your voice is like being cared for and that people aren't taking that into account when they're making new bylaws."
Getting involved 'shows that they actually care'
Maymunah Abdurahman said she doesn't see any ads or social posts for the municipal election, but she definitely paid attention when the provincial and federal elections were on.
"If they want to get the generation who's 17 and 18 and 19, I'd say social media, probably a lot of us are on social media. So they need to utilize that," she said.
She wants to see local politicians be more inclusive of the various communities within the cities and townships, too. She noted October is Islamic Heritage Month and she didn't see the city do anything about it.
"A big thing is probably just getting involved in the community. It shows that they actually care and they want better for the people who live here," she said. "For example, actually talking to Muslim students, or Black students or Asian students. Getting involved is a big thing they could be doing a lot more of."
William Dubuc said he knows municipal politics is important and that it's the closest level of government to people.
"People think just because federal is the highest level, [those politicians] do the most. Same with provincial — it's the higher level, they think they do more. But in my opinion, the municipal election is the most important."
He said he'd want to hear local politicans talk about creating more park space and places young people can go to be active and hang out with friends.
"I think if there were to be a politician that spoke on the behalf of people who want to be active and outside and more and looking into adding more recreational areas, I think that would be more inspiring for people to vote," he said.
Questions for candidates
Before the interview with CBC K-W, the students wrote down questions or comments they would make to a municipal candidate. Here's what they said:
Maymunah Abdurahman: "I want to know what my city councillor is doing, or what they will do for me, in the area of employment. The cost of education is constantly increasing and it makes it less unattainable for high school graduates. Are there city employment opportunities that are available to teens, and if so, why aren't they advertised more broadly?"
Aiden Devine: "I just recently got a job at Tim Horton's and I was wondering what we're going to do about the public transport situation since we do have a lot of buses in Cambridge, but there's no LRT trains, so it makes it much harder to get around and faster."
William Dubuc: "Having two months off every summer outside of my part-time job, I have a lot of free time and I find that there aren't enough basketball courts, skate parks, or recreational facilities to keep you busy. And I want to vote for a councillor that has my interest in mind, keeping me active during the summer months."
Abigail Sevigny: "I've heard a lot about other cities and municipalities joining forces and amalgamating in the past and I was wondering if that was something that we were considering for the tri-cities and why we have separate councils for Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge and if it would be more efficient to amalgamate and if it would be more cost efficient?"
Zuhal Haidary: "What is a school board trustee? What do they do? Why are they necessary? How come you only hear about them during municipal campaigns?"
- An earlier version of this story said the class had reached out to candidates to ask them for campaign information and no one had responded. The school says due to an error, the letters didn't go out to candidates.Oct 18, 2022 8:02 AM ET