Pupils take to the polls

Local schools participate in nation-wide mock election

They may not be of voting age, but that didn’t stop Whistler school students from having their voices heard during the Canadian federal election.
As part of the Canada-wide Student Vote movement, Whistler Secondary School (WSS), Spring Creek Community School and Myrtle Phillip Community School (MPCS) all held their own mock elections last week, with results being collected from all over the country and tabulated both nationally and by riding.
At press time only the results from Whistler Secondary were available. Pamela Goldsmith-Jones won the mock election with a landslide, garnering 54 per cent of the 341 ballots cast. A distant second was conservative John Weston at 61 votes followed by the Green Party’s Ken Melamed at 49 votes. The NDP saw just 27 votes with the Marijuana Party of Canada trailing at 18 votes.
Just as Canadian voters have become more engaged this election, so too have the students.
“Students are far more engaged in this election than they have been previously,” said leadership studies teacher John Hall, who helped organize Student Vote at WSS. “I don’t think that’s a reflection of the students, I think that’s a reflection of this election. It’s well-known statistically that if students don’t vote in the first election they’re eligible for after high school, then they are unlikely to vote for the next 10 years.”
Hall noted that lower voter turnout is generally tied to people’s unfamiliarity with what happens inside a polling station, which can cause apprehension. With both primary and secondary students going through the process of lining up at the polling station, showing their IDs to sign in with officials and casting their ballots, the hope is for students to build the habits of “informed and engaged citizenship.”
Twelve-year-old Sean McClain from Myrtle Philip Community School said Canadians have no excuses for not voting.
“I don’t know if they’re just feeling lazy or not, but everyone has a voice,” he said. “If they give up and think ‘Oh no, we’re not going to [win] it,’ then half the population is going to do the same. All people, women and men, should go out
and vote.”
Eleven-year-old Dewi Wahono agreed.
“It determines their life in Canada,” she said of voters. “Each prime minister [candidate] has different rules and what they want to do, so I think it’s important to choose the one that
suits you.”
As students filed in to cast their ballots, others designated as scrutineers from all three major parties oversaw the voting process for the intermediate-aged children at the school. Grade 4/5 teacher Jeannette Unruh helped organize Student Vote at Myrtle Philip Community School.
“We’ve had leaders come in and talk not just about their party, but what it means to be a leader in Canada,” said Unruh, noting that all candidates in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding were invited to speak, but only candidates Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and Ken Melamed came to present at the school during the campaign. “The difference that [Student Vote] makes is when you go home and talk to your parents about their voting, you’re creating awareness of voting in the community. The second reason is that if they’ve done this process a couple of times, by the time they get to 18 we’re coming out with a generation of informed, responsible voters who will make a difference in the next election. Thirty-nine per cent of people didn't turn out to vote last election and a lot of that was the youth vote. We’re trying to encourage them to take that responsibility if they want to be a citizen of Canada.”

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