Think young people aren't tuned in to this civic election? Meet 3 who are

Meet three students who are paying close attention to this Ontario municipal election, pressing the candidates for answers on issues that matter to them.

Ontario's municipal election is Oct. 24

Ava Hassan, Sofiat Ajibowu and Megan Scrivens, left to right, plan to vote in the Oct. 24 municipal election and are encouraging their peers to do the same. (Michelle Both/ CBC News)

With Ontario municipal elections now less than two weeks away, there is concern the overall voter turnout could be historically low. 

Jacquie Newman, a political science professor at King's University College, told CBC's London Morning last week that voter turnout in the Oct. 24 election could be in danger of crashing this time around. 

Across the province, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario said average voter turnout was 38.3 per cent in the 2018 municipal election, the lowest since 1982.

Meanwhile, the Ontario election in June set a new record for lowest turnout — 43.5 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. 

Post-secondary students represent a huge clutch of voters who often don't turn up at the polls. Common theories for this is that students are too busy to focus on the campaigns, have roots outside the city or often just aren't aware they are eligible to vote. 

But CBC London spoke to three young people who are engaged in this election. Two are working on local campaigns. All three plan to vote and are encouraging their classmates to cast a ballot.

Here's some of what they told us about the election issues that matter to them and how candidates could get more people their age interested in voting. 

Sofiat Ajibowu: Housing affordability is key

Sofiat Ajibowu says city politicians needs to address the lack of affordable housing, and work with the province to provide more housing for people with addiction and mental health issues. (Submitted)

Ajibowu, 22, is a fourth-year student studying public policy and political science at King's University College. She's also volunteering on the campaign of Corrine Rahman, a former school board trustee running for council in Ward 7. 

Ajibowu said the cost of housing and the homeless crisis in downtown London are top-of-mind issues for her.

"I think one thing that could help is accelerating the rent-geared-to-income housing and new creative solutions for affordable housing for renters," she said. 

Ajibowu points out that any significant work on the housing front would require the city to work closely with the province. Also, she points out that more supports for people who struggle with addiction and mental health issues are needed. 

"Developing some sort of mental health emergency facility is an idea I've been hearing a lot," she said. "That and emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness would be helpful." 

Ava Hassan: Students press candidates on transit

Ava Hassan helped organize a panel of mayoral candidates at King's University College as a way to give students a chance to connect with them in person. (Submitted)

Hassan, 20, is on the executive of the political science club at King's. Feeling that students needed to meet the candidates in person to make an informed decision, her club set up a panel inviting all of the mayoral candidates. 

The candidates had to answer questions submitted by students and alumni in an open forum. Members of the audience were also allowed to ask questions of the candidates.

Not all the candidates attended, but Hassan said the event helped get students to consider voting and weigh what each candidate is offering. 

"A lot of the people who came are really invested in the election," said Hassan. "A lot of these issues are really bothering them, so people are hoping to see change." 

Perhaps not surprisingly, transit was a big issue with the students who showed up. 

Students are heavy users of the London Transit Commission, but the LTC is dealing with overcrowding on many routes that serve the Western, King's and Fanshawe College. A staff shortage on the LTC is also affecting service.

"The transit system in London is not the greatest," said Hassan. "Sometimes you're waiting at a stop and the buses have to refuse you because there's no space." 

Hassan said a lot of students questioned mayoral candidates about improving transit, but says they didn't get clear answers. 

Megan Scrivens: 

Megan Scrivens says she and other students are looking to candidates to present ideas on how to improve the city's transit system. (Submitted)

A fourth-year student studying political science and social justice at Western, 21-year-old Scrivens is also working on Rahman's campaign in Ward 7. 

Scrivens said a lot of young voters she's speaking with are concerned about the climate crisis. The city of London has declared a climate emergency which includes a goal of moving the city to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"A lot of us are looking at how council candidates express their concerns for the environment and what they're planning to do about it," she said. 

Rising housing prices is a top-of-mind issue for Scrivens. 

"Rent is just absolutely absurd right now," she said. "I think we're all looking into housing affordability." 

However, she said students aren't just concerned about how costs affect. them. She works downtown where she's reminded about the number of Londoners who sleep rough outside. 

Scrivens said she'd rather see more supports for people who sleep outside, and less of an enforcement approach. 



Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.