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BC Election 2019 Category
Analysis
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Election 2019
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Federal Politics

Five Ways to Get that Apathetic Human in Your Life to Vote

A Tyee guide to engaging the 31 per cent.

Jesse Donaldson 16 Oct 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Jesse Donaldson is an author and journalist. His forthcoming work is 49.2: Tales from the Off-Beat, a series examining the weird and wonderful elements of Vancouver’s history. The first instalment, Land of Destiny: A History of Vancouver Real Estate will be published in fall 2019 by Anvil Press.

In the 2015 federal election, almost one-third of Canadians didn’t vote. And according to a Statistics Canada report, one of the big reasons that 31.5 per cent of eligible voters stayed away from the ballot box was simple: they just weren’t interested in politics.

Although the election that brought Justin Trudeau to power was notable for its increased engagement of young voters, many Canadians were — and still are — apathetic about exercising the franchise.

In the run-up to Monday’s election day, this remains an issue, particularly among younger and less educated citizens. Historically, turnout amongst youth voters has always lagged significantly behind that of Canadians 55+ — even during the 2015 election, when those 18 to 34 hit the polls in relatively record numbers. Leading into the 2019 election, however, a repeat of that enthusiasm is anything but assured.

So The Tyee came up with a list of ways you can try to convince the un-convincible to show up and vote. It’s of course, non-exhaustive, and we welcome Tyee readers to share their further tips on how to entice one’s friends, family, co-workers and more to hit the ballot box in the comment thread below.

Because when it comes to improving voter engagement, it will take all of us.

And in some cases, it will take sandwiches.

1. Yes, there’s a sandwich in it for first-time voters.

The act of voting itself may not feel all that rewarding for some people. So why not butter them up with a sandwich?

This is a non-baloney idea dreamed up by Byron Dauncey, sandwich aficionado and founder of the website I Will Make You a Sandwich. The website, is, as Dauncey puts it, “a non-partisan website designed by me, to encourage social engagement and voter participation for the coming federal election. It’s a place you can learn to register and vote, and to share secret sandwich recipes. But mostly it’s a tool for engaged citizens to encourage the 31 per cent of Canadians who don’t vote to give it a go.”

While unfortunately Dauncey isn’t offering to make the sandwiches himself, his website does share a number of recipes with those who are willing to make one for their friends in order to convince them to vote, including “Byron’s Killer Breakfast Sandwich” and the “Faux-Thai.”

For Dauncey, voter engagement is a truly meaty proposition. And he doesn’t mind being stuck in the middle.

2. Remind them that getting informed isn’t that hard.

We know, we know: the internet is overflowing with election coverage. It’s a non-stop, breathless barrage of debates, scandals, analysis and policy discussion. Where’s the apathetic voter to even begin? Wealth taxes? Indigenous rights? Immigration policy? Truth and reconciliation? Oil and gas? Health care? NAFTA? Deficit spending?

Luckily, the web also provides simple ways of getting one’s head around the issues without pulling a political muscle.

For example, the CBC has provided an easy reference chart comparing where each party stands, issue by issue.

Or if Bloomberg is more your speed, it has also been charting the positions and has added hyperlinks for extra convenience.

And the helpful folks at 338Canada.com provide an up-to-the-minute look at current poll numbers and riding projections, so you can vote strategically if that’s your choice.

For readers able to commit a little more time, each of the major party’s platforms are listed in detail on their respective websites.

Liberal

Conservative

NDP

Greens

Bloc

And, of course, if your apathetic voter-friend really gets into it, send them to The Tyee. Our election coverage is collected here.

3. Let them know how easy it is.

While advance voting is already behind us (and in very substantial numbers), voting on election day is absurdly easy. There will be more than 20,000 polling stations open across Canada (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), staffed by more than 300,000 workers, and locating the one nearest you is as simple as the click of a button.

4. Shame them (optional).

Ordinarily, The Tyee would never advocate the shaming of friends and relatives (unless they happen to have fibbed about being an insurance broker or have a trove of secret brownface photos). However, when it comes to engaging that apathetic 31 per cent, the 2019 election might qualify as an extraordinary circumstance.

To induce peak shame, try reminding friends and loved ones that 31 per cent is approximately the percentage of Americans who believed Donald Trump had a mandate to govern following the 2016 U.S. election. Thirty-one per cent is the percentage of Americans who still view Rudy Giuliani “favourably.”

Movies with roughly a 31-per-cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, the 2016 Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence vehicle Passengers and Tango and Cash.

And nobody wants to be Tango and Cash.

5. Let them know how powerful they are.

When it comes to engaging an apathetic friend, co-worker, or relative, there can be a number of significant stumbling blocks — the greatest of which being that oft-repeated phrase: “My vote doesn’t matter.”

Yet, despite their relative apathy (remember, less than 50 per cent), Canadians in the 18-to-34 age bracket now make up the largest voting bloc in recent history. Don’t take our word for it; check out the statistics at Future Majority or Generation Squeeze.

And though it may seem like the country’s millennial and gen-Z voters are a disparate bunch, their political priorities are actually more aligned than one might think, in particular when it comes to issues like housing affordability and climate change.

The presence of young voters at the polls has already been on the rise; between 2011 and 2015, the number of 18-to-24-year-olds voting federally increased by more than 18 per cent (during the same period, the number of 24 to 35-year-olds went up by 12 per cent, much of that support going to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals).

And countrywide, non-partisan groups like Future Majority are aiming to get those numbers even higher.

“We are the new majority,” reads the group’s manifesto on their website. “As a group of young Canadians, we formed Future Majority to address the growing disconnect young Canadians feel from the country's current politics and politicians. Our goal is to unite the voice of youth across Canada and disrupt the status quo on Parliament Hill. We are building a movement.”

In B.C., voters have spent years feeling as though their votes are less important than those of Canadians further east, and in many federal elections that may have indeed been the case.

But not this time. For a start, the 2019 election hinges in part on several made-in-B.C. issues, including those related to the Liberal party’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

In addition, several B.C. ridings that flipped in favour of the Liberals in 2015 (including Vancouver South) are now far from a sure thing (of particular interest is Vancouver Granville, the riding of former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who resigned her post and is currently running as an independent candidate.

And with the polls suggesting a majority government, every vote could count.

As Future Majority puts it:

“Young Canadians have grown up in the shadows of older generations who until now have had the most power in shaping our electorate. Historically, politicians have been able to succeed without representing us while in office. But not anymore.”

Happy voting.  [Tyee]

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