Manitoba

University, college students split on whether they'll vote. Here's why

University and college students are split on whether they'll go out and vote Tuesday in the provincial election.

'I just don't really know much about the parties'

Athena Koodoo, a first-year University of Winnipeg student, admits she doesn't know much about this year's provincial election but says she will likely vote. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

Fresh out of high school, Athena Koodoo is switching gears getting used to university life.

She's also thinking about voting in the provincial election Tuesday — something that puts her at odds with her peers.

Forty-seven per cent of surveyed young people aged 18-29 didn't vote in the last three provincial elections and cited a lack of knowledge and interest as barriers that prevented them from voting, according to a 2016 survey commissioned by Elections Manitoba.

Koodoo, a first-year University of Winnipeg student, admits she doesn't know much about this year's provincial election.

"The parties that are running are kind of just running smear campaigns against each other so I'm still unclear on the principles that each of them are running for," she said.

She isn't sure how she'll vote Tuesday if she votes at all, but she knows what's important to her.

"I want to see strong campaigns to reduce the amount of plastic and improve our recycling in the city," noting she still needs to do research and wouldn't necessarily vote for the Green party.

Ranveer Bhandal, a U of W student, says he's going to rely on his family to guide his decision. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

CBC spoke to many other University of Winnipeg students who said they might vote but didn't know who would get their support.

"Honestly, I don't follow politics enough to give you my proper opinion," said Ranveer Bhandal, 22, who's going to rely on his family to guide his decision.

"It's going to be like, 'Hey mom, what are you voting for?' and I'll just vote."

'Vote for Brian!'

Bhandal didn't recognize NDP Leader Wab Kinew's name but knew his opponent's name.

"I know who Brian Pallister is just because I have a co-worker who's voting for him so he's like, 'Vote for Brian'!"

Some students said they won't be voting Tuesday but might in the next election.

Elise Stokes, 18, is a first-year U of W student. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

"I probably will in a few years. I just don't really know much about the parties and don't want to vote from somebody else's opinions, like my parents or my brother," said Elise Stokes, 18.

Lack of knowledge problematic

Stokes said she hasn't heard much about the race but did read an article in the paper about the Progressive Conservatives promising to start a midwifery program.

"I was excited about that," said the first-year U of W student, who hopes to become a midwife.

At Red River College, voting has a deeper meaning for Becca Myskiw, a second-year journalism student.

"I just want to exercise my right to vote. I mean women fought hard a long time ago and if I don't vote, I don't have the right to complain about what happens."

My mom said it's going to affect my taxes if I don't vote. Is that true? - Gian Pineda, Red River College student

But even students like Gian Pineda, who say they will probably vote, don't have a solid grasp on the significance of voting.

"My mom said it's going to affect my taxes if I don't vote. Is that true? I'm not sure," asked Pineda.

The survey from Elections Manitoba found young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely to say that not knowing enough about the parties, policies, or candidates was an important reason to not cast a ballot.

Becca Myskiw, a second-year journalism student, said voting is important in part because so many women before her fought for the right to vote. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

What schools are teaching

In Manitoba, Grade 6 students learn about the Canadian government, political parties and their leaders.

In Grade 9, students are supposed to be able to describe the differences between the responsibilities of federal, First Nations, provincial, and municipal governments; and in Grade 11, history, governance and economics are taught.

But first-year U of W student Marcus Cabral feels the curriculum does little to effectively teach students about provincial politics and the voting process.

"Even in school they don't teach us who to vote for or how it even works, really, so I feel like even if we were more educated on that it'd be better for us," said Cabral, who noted that so far, he's only seen attack ads on Wab Kinew during the election.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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