Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Students sparse at UVic early municipal voting despite efforts to encourage youth vote

Young people are too busy with “a struggle to even exist,” and midterms, student representatives say

By Michael John Lo
October 14, 2022
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Students sparse at UVic early municipal voting despite efforts to encourage youth vote

Young people are too busy with “a struggle to even exist,” and midterms, student representatives say

By Michael John Lo
Oct 14, 2022
Victoria council and mayor candidates take the stage for the all-candidates meeting held at UVic’s student union building on Oct. 7 Photo by Michael John Lo
Victoria council and mayor candidates take the stage for the all-candidates meeting held at UVic’s student union building on Oct. 7 Photo by Michael John Lo
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Students sparse at UVic early municipal voting despite efforts to encourage youth vote

Young people are too busy with “a struggle to even exist,” and midterms, student representatives say

By Michael John Lo
October 14, 2022
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Students sparse at UVic early municipal voting despite efforts to encourage youth vote
Victoria council and mayor candidates take the stage for the all-candidates meeting held at UVic’s student union building on Oct. 7 Photo by Michael John Lo

It can be an uphill battle to convince grade-focused students to wade through dozens of candidates and make their selection for this year’s municipal election.

Last week, municipal candidates for Oak Bay, Saanich, and Victoria made their pitches to students at a series of all-candidates meetings held at UVic. The event for Saanich candidates had the most people show up in-person with about 120 in attendance, while attendance for the Oak Bay event was closer to 16. 

Early voting on Oct. 11 at the SUB. Photo by Lauren Man / Capital Daily

On Oct. 11, the appetite for early voting at the Student Union Building for the municipalities of Saanich and Victoria came primarily from those who were older.

Saanich council candidate Basil Langevin cast their vote at UVic that day. “Aside from myself, I don’t think anyone in that room was younger than 50,” Langevin said. 

“It’s midterm season, so I think students are probably pretty focused on that [instead],” said UVic student Emma-Jane Burian. 

Burian is hoping to get more students engaged in the electoral process. This summer, Burian also helped organize an event featuring Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and outgoing Victoria Councillor Shamarke Dubow to encourage more diverse candidates to run for office.

“I want to make sure that the voices of my peers are heard,” said Burian. “With COVID, I feel like it’s more difficult for students to get involved.” She’s part of a grassroots effort to get out the vote at UVic.

The grassroots campaign to get out the student vote in the civic election put a large focus on the Oct. 11 early voting opportunity on campus. Photo by Lauren Man / Capital Daily

There are some students—like Saanich council and CRD candidate Jordan MacDougall and View Royal council candidate Steven MacAskill— running for office, and some candidates in Saanich and Victoria have been pitching policies and canvassing towards students in hopes that they will come out and vote. 

In municipal elections, the balance is tilted against youth participation: unlike property owners, who can vote in multiple municipalities as non-resident property electors, students who come from other parts of BC must choose between the municipality where they will likely live for years and the place where they came from. 

“The biggest thing is apathy,” said the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) Campaigns Director Izzy Adachi. “After the past two years, people are so exhausted because it’s just been a struggle to even exist.”

Adachi says trying to make a difference in electoral politics is difficult for young people with many other things to worry about. 

The pandemic has had a “significant and deleterious” impact on young adults, says a July 2021 report by the BC Centre for Disease Control. It cites figures from Statistics Canada, saying those aged 18-30 are more likely than any other age group to have lost their job during the pandemic, while education and job training opportunities have been disrupted or delayed. The report also noted a decline in mental health and an increase in stress amongst young people.

Findings from StatCan further indicate that age is the demographic factor most likely to determine whether someone votes or not, with seniors voting the most and youth the least. Municipal turnout statistics are tracked less consistently than federal and provincial elections, but voting turnout for those aged 18-24 and 25-34 in Vancouver’s last municipal election were about 10 to 20 percentage points lower than other age groups.

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Adachi—who has parodied as a mayoral candidate and maintains an active commentary on the city’s politics on her Twitter account—is part of the small crop of politically active students at UVic. She spoke at UVic’s housing event on Oct. 2 and helped organize the All-Candidates meetings on campus, events that have sometimes attracted fewer students than expected.

Still, she thinks it’s important for young people to get organized. “What students need to know is that if we do turn out in big numbers, we can be a major swing vote because often these seats are decided by 200 or so votes.” 

UVic has an average graduating age of 23 and just under half of its students graduate between the ages of 22 to 24, according to a 2018 report. For many first years, this municipal election will be the first election where they will be eligible to vote, with the typical age of a first year student being just over 18 years old.

Last week, Capital Daily analyzed what 116 candidates had to say about young people in the region. Candidates said that the priority issues for young people in the region were housing and recreation. But that only partly tracks with what students themselves see as their priorities.

UVic’s student newspaper, The Martlet—which moderated the event—asked candidates student-submitted questions on housing and environmental sustainability goals. Oak Bay candidates received additional questions about reconciliation and mental health support. Victoria candidates were asked how they would be allies toward groups that faced discrimination and how they would take tangible steps to aid the unhoused population downtown. 

It’s definitely great to have increased recreation opportunities, said Burian. “But it’s not something that is top of mind for students. We need to be able to live before we engage in those activities,” she added.

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Michael John Lo
Editorial Intern
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