Investing in Toronto's future
Just under a month ago, I celebrated my eighteenth birthday. No, you won't be seeing me in bars anytime soon, but you may spot me at a polling station for the first time this October. For many young people in our city, the 2010 municipal election marks the first time their right to vote is realized. However, this doesn't necessarily tell us who they will vote for or even whether they will show up.
Prior to October, the only voting experience these teens will have had is for Student Council or Canadian Idol.
Although the mayoral race may have started out much like a student council election with Adam Giambrone's YouTube debut, it takes more than a little humour and a dab of youthfulness to win over young voters. If Toronto’s next mayor wants the support of the city’s young people, he or she will need to start listening to, and, more importantly, start acting on their concerns.
Amid TTC fare hikes, rising child poverty rates, gang violence, and a lack of employment opportunities for teens, simply focusing on youth issues could take up a candidate’s entire platform.
But as it stands, no candidate has taken a firm stance on supporting Toronto’s young people.
There have, however, been those like Giorgio Mammoliti who have already shut out teens by proposing a curfew. Rather than supporting more effective community programming, Mammoliti dismisses them for harsh measures that alienate rather than help.
Let’s engage today’s youth – not lock them up.
The problem stems not only from the candidates, but also from the organization of our government.
“The outcry always comes after the policies are implemented,” says Kamakshi Ganesan, a Grade 12 student who looks forward to voting for her first time. “Teens need to be the ones helping to draft policies. Otherwise, we’ll keep having governments that think they know what is best for us.”
With Giambrone out of the race, the average age of this year’s mayoral contenders is 49 – 31 years older than our city’s first-time voters. Although they may not be able to connect to current youth on a personal level, there is still room to include youth issues in the race.
But it’s not just about listening to youth, or using feel-good language like “consultation” or “representation.” It’s about legitimately ensuring that the needs of young people are heard and acted upon, during the campaign and especially in the next four years. Investing in youth today ensures a more prosperous city in the future. It also ensures a loyal body of voters in the next election – and the one after that.
Open your eyes, candidates: a new generation of voters is hungry for change.