Last Friday afternoon, I boarded the 129A McCowan North bus near my house. Having just arrived in Toronto for the Thanksgiving long weekend (I study full-time in Ottawa), I was heading downtown via the RT's Scarborough Centre station to visit my friends who I hadn't seen since the summer holidays.
It started out as a typical ride. I took a seat near the front of the bus, and and stared aimlessly out the window, waiting for the 15 minute-or-so trip to end.
But a spirited conversation between two young people caught my attention, and I proceeded to (shamelessly) eavesdrop.
A woman in her mid- to late-twenties sat two seats to my left, with a large baby carriage in front of her. She was speaking to a man in his early twenties about the upcoming municipal election on October 25.
Sitting directly across the aisle, the man was clad in a white t-shirt emblazoned with bright red lettering. From my vantage point, I could see the words “VOTE” and “OCTOBER 25,” which appeared to prompt their exchange.
After introducing himself to the woman, the man said he was canvassing (hence, the t-shirt), adding that he hoped Torontonians would get out and vote.
“Are you planning to vote in the election?”
“I'm not sure; I don't think so,” the woman replied. “I don't vote if I don't feel it's legit, or if I feel that it's a hoax.”
As a resident of Markham (whose elections are also on October 25), she said she felt that the candidates in her ward were less than genuine.
In response, the man encouraged her to cast a ballot, saying, “It can make a difference.”
Heartened by their conversation, the woman said that she would tell her relatives in Malvern to vote, and began to list the ways in which the local community could be improved. She wanted more job postings in high-traffic areas where people could see them (“like the Eaton Centre”) and better housing for lower-income families (“not just slums”).
Referring specifically to the Malvern area, the woman emphasized the need for more after-school activities to “keep kids out of trouble,” citing basketball, soccer, reading clubs, study groups and access to computers and the Internet as examples.
She stressed the importance of keeping youth occupied in a lively environment: “If people are depressed, then they get into trouble. Kids do bad things when they're bored. That's why Malvern gets such a bad rep.”
This conversation between two young strangers may have hardly lasted 10 minutes, but it taught me two valuable lessons:
1) Youth want to be engaged, but are discouraged by the broken promises and empty rhetoric of dishonest politicians (as I mentioned in my very first post here).
2) But engaging youth isn't that difficult. As evident from this exchange, it's obvious that young people are receptive to other young people. Enthusiasm is contagious, and getting youth to vote may be as simple as getting one young person to talk to another.