Students opt for Conservative minority in mock elections

Young Canadians taking part in Student Vote have again opted for a Conservative minority government.
Grade 8 students Lauren Hill, left, Ryan Foley and Sarah Hansen participate in Student Vote at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, N.B. on Oct. 10. ((Courtesy of Lise Martin-Keilty))

Canada's elementary and high school students have done it again.

Like the last federal election, students taking part in Student Vote have again voted for a Conservative minority government.

The students, who took part in mock elections in the week leading up to Oct. 14, awarded 100 seats to the Conservative party.

The NDP came second with 66 seats, while the Liberals and the Green party finished third and fourth respectively, with 54 and 44 seats.

Twenty-four seats went to the Bloc Québécois.

 Party Seats Valid ballots cast%
 Conservative 100 108,429 26.8
 NDP 66 96,090 23.7
 Liberal 54 77,996 19.3
Green 44 101,119 25
Bloc 24 4,317 1.1
Independent 1 3,454 0.9

Approximately 420,000 students from Grades 5 to 12 in every province and territory participated in Student Vote 2008. In total, 404,848 valid ballots were cast. Out of Canada's 308 ridings, representatives were elected in 286. Voting in three additional ridings resulted in ties.

The 2008 Conservative minority mirrors the 2006 student result, the Conservative party took 128 seats. Similar to 2008, the NDP came second.

What's different from the last election is the growth in popularity for the Greens. While they received only six seats in 2006, their 2008 results jumped to 44 seats, winning ridings in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and Leader Elizabeth May's riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia.

Political dialogue at home

"As per past programs, I think students voted similarly as their parents, so I am not surprised that the students selected a Conservative minority," said Lindsay Mazzucco, co-founder of Student Vote. "It shows us that political dialogue is happening at home which is an important objective for the Student Vote program."

The mock elections were hosted by Student Vote, a national, non-partisan organization based in Toronto. The 2008 project was Student Vote's seventh parallel election since it began in 2003 for the provincial election in Ontario. It was funded solely by Elections Canada.

"I really got to learn more about politics, learn about each of the parties and be able to choose a party to vote for," 12-year-old Sydney McAdam said of the mock elections.

Grade 8 student Jane Blanchard casts her vote as part of Student Vote at George Street Middle School in Fredericton. ((Courtesy of Lise Martin-Keilty))

The Grade 8 student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, N.B., was one of 500 Grade 7 and 8 students in her school who voted on Oct. 10. The results were sent to Student Vote over the long weekend.

In the weeks leading up to their voting day, McAdam and her classmates learned about the parties, their platforms and the seating plan in the House of Commons through class assignments and discussions.

Several Grade 7 and 8 students acted as polling clerks on Oct. 10.

"I like hearing other peoples' views and I like being able to make choices in my life," said McAdam's classmate, Robbie Lynn. "I am excited to vote today."

CBC News spoke to the 12-year-old 30 minutes before he voted on Oct. 10. He said he's always loved politics, especially learning about the different levels of government and their respective roles.

Diverse results

He believes Student Vote gave fellow classmates who knew nothing about politics a better understanding of it.

"A lot of my friends had no idea what politics was," Lynn said. "Some of them thought that [Fredericton Mayor] Brad Woodside was the prime minister."

"Now they know stuff and we actually talk about it a lot in the cafeteria. We sometimes [talk about it] in class when we're not supposed to."

The results were diverse regionally.

In B.C., the NDP received 16 seats out of the 36 seats, while the Conservatives took 10. The Liberals won three in the province and the Greens seven.

The Conservatives took 25 of 28 seats in Alberta. The story was similar in other western provinces as the Conservatives won nine out of the 14 seats in Manitoba and 10 of the 14 seats in Saskatchewan.

The Greens and Conservatives tied in Ontario, with each party winning 31 seats out of the total of 106. The Liberals won 25 seats, while the NDP won 19.

The Bloc Québécois won 24 seats out of the 52 in Quebec. The Liberals came second with 12, while the Conservatives took six. The Greens won two.

In Atlantic Canada, the NDP won 13 of the 32 seats, including six in N.S. The Liberals won 10 seats, while the Conservatives won seven and the Greens three.

Ties in 3 ridings

In the north, the Liberals dominated with wins in Yukon and Nunavut. The Conservatives won a seat in Northwest Territories' Western Arctic riding.

There were three ties: one in N.B.'s Saint John riding, where the Conservatives and Greens tied for 50 votes; another in Newfoundland's Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte riding where the Conservatives and NDP tied with six votes, and a tie in the riding of Quebec, where the Conservatives and NDP each received 20 votes.

Back in Fredericton, teacher Lise Martin-Keilty was surprised by her students' enthusiasm.

In the days leading up to Oct. 10, students studied each party's platform as if they were preparing for an examination on the election.

Some students, who were leaving early on Oct. 10 because of the Thanksgiving weekend, asked Martin-Keilty if they could vote before they left.

"Some of these kids are making more informed decisions that some adults are," said Martin-Keilty on Oct. 10.

"This morning I had kids as little light bulbs say: 'I was going to vote Conservative but in the party's platform it says the Conservatives want to cut $45 million in culture and the arts, and culture and the arts are very important to me, so now I am not voting for them.'"

"For a 13-year-old to say that — wow."