Dinner table politics: Toronto mom launches 'CoVote' to let teens have say in election

A Toronto mother is encouraging families to talk about politics at the dinner table as a way to include teenage children in voting decisions made by their parents and grandparents.

Talk with teens may prompt adults to think about climate change when voting, Victoria Bell says

Adlyn Gilbert, 13, belts out a chant at the Global Climate Strike in Toronto. 'I’m here to fight for my future, for the future,' she says. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

A Toronto mother is encouraging families to talk about politics at the dinner table as a way to include teenage children in voting decisions made by their parents and grandparents.

Victoria Bell, an entrepreneur, says she hopes her non-partisan campaign, entitled CoVote, will lead to more informed voting about climate change.

Bell said CoVote is based on the idea that intergenerational talks will enable people too young to vote to have some say in the Oct. 21 federal election. The idea is that older people, such as parents and grandparents, could discuss federal issues that matter with younger people, namely teens, then make a voting decision together. Climate change would be front-and-centre in that decision, she said.

"CoVote is simple idea," Bell told CBC Radio's Metro Morning recently. "The idea is that voting age adults have a conversation with someone who is not yet of legal age to talk to them about what the impact of their choice is on the young person and to make a commitment to vote in that way that protects that young person's future vis-a-vis the climate."

Climate change is considered to be one of the top issues in this election. 

Victoria Bell poses with her daughter Piper Boyd Bell. Victoria Bell has launched a new online campaign, CoVote, to include teens in the upcoming federal election. (Chris Wodskou)

On Sept. 27, thousands gathered at Queen's Park, the seat of Ontario's legislature, as part of Toronto's climate strike action. Protesters, many of whom were teens, demanded immediate government action to address climate change.

The CoVote campaign is being promoted through a website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Idea arose from conversation at family gathering 

Bell says the idea for the campaign came out of a dinner table conversation at a family gathering last year during the Ontario provincial election. Her father, in his 80s, discussed the election with one of her daughters, Lily, then 17. Her dad said he didn't want to vote because he believes all politicians are crooks and her daughter, desperate to vote, asked if he could vote for her.

"A little bell went off in my head and I thought, 'There's something in that,'" she said. 

"Ballots are secret so I have no idea what they actually conspired to do. It did occur to me that if I really listened to non-voting age teens and people I cared about in my life, it would make a difference about how I voted. I wanted to create an opportunity for those conversations to happen between older voters and younger people who are feeling disenfranchised."

Victoria Bell and Piper Boyd Bell like to talk politics with their family at the dinner table. Victoria came up with the idea of 'CoVote', a campaign to include young people in the voting decisions being made by their parents and grandparents. 10:04

Bell said CoVote is not telling people how to vote but simply to talk to each other.

'I'm certainly not here to tell you how to vote'

"I'm certainly not here to tell you how to vote," she said. "The decisions that we make on the 21st will have a long term impact on the young people in our lives. And I think we have a responsibility and an opportunity to share that impact with them."

Young protesters hold placards at the Ontario legislature during Toronto's climate strike on Sept. 27. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Piper Boyd Bell, 15, a Grade 10 student in Toronto and one of Bell's two daughters, told Metro Morning that she fully supports the campaign. She said her family does discuss politics at the dinner table and it values family dinners. Family members will share what they have learned on the news that day, she added.

"I thought it was really interesting. Right now, the social climate around politics is shifting more toward the younger generation as we get more involved. I think that's a really healthy and important thing. At the end of the day, it is our future. It is the world that we are going to be living in when we grow up," she said.

Piper says members of the younger generation are learning in school about climate change and are very concerned about the lack of action. She said the voting age should be lowered.

In the campaign, members of the older and younger generations are asked to take a photo together and post it on the CoVote's Instagram account.

With files from Metro Morning, Muriel Draaisma


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