Samantha Fox cannot recall the last time voter turnout in a provincial election was this bad. That’s because the fourth-year nursing student wasn’t alive – no of us were.
Last week, voter turnout for the provincial election was 49.2 per cent. (Even allowing for a total of 29 days to vote at special polls, mail-in ballots, advance polls and election day itself.) The last time voter apathy hit such record lows was 1867. Yes, 144 years ago.
“It kind of re-affirms the fact we need to be around and an organization like ours can do some good,” says Fox, referring to Global Vision’s Riding Ambassador program, which hopes to boost youth interest and involvement in politics across Canada.
The program looks to start up local chapters in each of the country’s 308 ridings and generate discussion among youth 15-25 about the importance of being politically active. That includes voting.
Fox heads the London North Centre riding.
In fact, it was over coffee with former London Middlesex MP and Global Vision founder Terry Clifford that Fox decided to step up and make a difference.
Global Vision is a national non-profit organization engaging enterprising young Canadians through education and hands-on experience to develop as leaders in their communities, across Canada and around the world.
“When I was talking with Terry we were both so passionate about this and he said, ‘Then let’s do this.’ The ambassador program came about because we realized we needed to do something. We all know that,” Fox says. “We want to start early and get into classes and speak to those who are about to vote for the first time and get them excited, engaged and interested in the political process – and not simply two days before an election.”
The goal of the program is to increase youth political activism by 2015. Fox is well aware the numbers are against her.
Just 15 years ago, voter turnout was 63 per cent. That dropped to 52 per cent in 2007, which was the worst ever until last week.
Voter fatigue could also be working against her as she gets the program off the ground. There have been three elections – federal, provincial and municipal – all within one year.
“Looking at these numbers, we know we’re needed,” Fox says. “We’re trying to offer something to the youth and not just telling them ‘go vote.’ We’re youth ourselves; so it’s different in us talking to them. I think a lot of it has to do with just too much information. They feel very overwhelmed and also disenfranchised. I think a lot of them feel they don’t have a say and their vote really doesn’t count.”
Four major conferences around the Global Vision program are being held across Canada over the next few months. Locally, Fox looks to create a mini-conference next month to introduce the program to London youth. Also, there are plans to speak to high schools, youth groups and at Western.
She hopes current and former politicians assist with the program and plans meetings with both the London Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce seeking their support.
“A lot of what we’re doing is community development and getting people engaged and active in their community,” Fox says. “We want to increase political activism and increase the youth vote. I know we can.”
Currently, 30 ambassadors representing every province/territory are on board with the program.”
“Four years is enough time,” Fox continues. “We just have to keep it in our minds that that is what we’re working toward. Even if it’s hard, and it will be difficult and a lot of work, but our end goal is definitely attainable if we keep that drive going.”
For more information on the Global Vision Riding Ambassador program: Visit globalvision.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.