Rob Ford may have won the hearts of many Torontonians this election, but George Smitherman would have been the real winner if youth could vote. According to data released by Student Vote, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that runs mock elections in schools, 40 per cent of young people mock-voted for George Smitherman, a slim plurality over the 37.4 per cent who voted for Ford, and the 22.6 per cent who voted for Joe Pantalone. Youth also supported 32 of the 44 newly-elected city councillors.
It is true that young people have a tendency to shy away from the right, but that fact did not seem to deter some students from supporting Ford, who lost by only 2.6 per cent in the mock election, but who won by a much larger 11.5 per cent of the vote in the actual election.
The response among young people remains varied: Some students, like Araf Khaled of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, feel that cutting back on spending at City Hall is “something Toronto desperately needs”.
Betty Lu of R.H. King Academy, on the other hand, finds that “Rob Ford doesn't represent anything that I believe in or stand for.”
There are also others who were skeptical about the race from the beginning – those who neither supported Smitherman nor Ford, but felt that they had to “settle” for one of the two candidates.
With the mayoral race officially over, one thing is clear: Toronto is coming out of this election perhaps even more divided than before. As Smitherman racked up on endorsements from everyone from media outlets to city councillors, it made losing that much less bearable. And, as the results from Student Vote have shown, many youth are clearly not happy.
Ford is taking office amidst strong “anyone but Ford” sentiment that has yet to die down in many communities (and indeed among many of his soon-to-be colleagues at City Hall). His first task will undoubtedly be to reach out to those who have tried so desperately to keep him from claiming the mayor’s seat. But, as the results from Student Vote have shown, he is going to have to do a lot more to win the support of Toronto’s youth. Coaching a football team is simply not enough. The young people of our city demand and deserve more.