Candidates at the THSS forum.

On Education: Get educated about voting

Voting is important.

With many of my fellow secondary students now old enough to vote, becoming educated about the importance of the democratic process is vital. That’s why I organized an all-candidates question period for Thomas Haney secondary students on Tuesday.

The process of bringing together all of the candidates was surprisingly easy. I found contact information for almost every candidate, not only those in the Maple Ridge-Mission constituency (where Thomas Haney is situated), but also in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows. This was important since students from my school’s catchment come from both ridings.

NDP candidates Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith, Liberals Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, Green party members Alex Pope and Peter Tam, and Libertarian Bryton Cherrier all attended the meeting. They were given two minutes to introduce themselves, then we began our question period.

THSS student Lynden Meadus took questions from the audience and gave them to me. This was done to ensure that questions were both appropriate and that they addressed both local and provincial election issues.

“What is your party going to do to help First Nations youth and to preserve their culture?” asked one student.

“Where does your party stand on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights?” asked another.

Before we even began, D’Eith acknowledged that we stood on the ancestral lands of the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations. Candidates then began to speak about their party’s platforms.

Beare discussed implementing the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, while Liberal, Green, and NDP candidates noted LGBTQ+ candidates within their parties. Each party highlighted diversity and awareness of key issues and candidates were considerate of one another. They treated students respectfully, and each question was met with a reflective and well considered response.

Some questions were directed to specific parties, while others were addressed to the panel. Students asked about many issues, including funding for education and the B.C. housing crisis. This was an important opportunity for students currently in the education system and as future homebuyers to self-advocate.

I was not surprised by the calibre of questions asked by my fellow students. My generation is often portrayed as being ignorant of what’s going on around us; often it is assumed that if our eyes are glued to our phones, that we are blind. This is not the case.

Youth today are politically active. Young people, expressing opinions and asking questions, dominate many social media outlets. That’s why this forum was organized. Whether it’s newspapers or online news sites, the media has always narrated our elections. Teens pay attention to current events and issues now more than ever, and it’s important to demonstrate that a powerful way to facilitate change is through voting.

Students in elementary and secondary schools can participate in a Student Vote for the B.C. Provincial Election. By participating in Student Vote, a project run by CIVIX, Elections B.C., and volunteers, we learn not only the process of voting, but also how important it is.

The results will be released at studentvote.ca after May 9.

According to Elections B.C., 112,918 people aged 18-24 voted in the 2013 provincial election. For many of my friends in the audience at the THSS all-candidates meeting, the upcoming election will be their first opportunity to vote.

Others, still too young, will be volunteering at polling booths as voting clerks and officers through the Elections B.C. “Youth at the Booth” initiative.

It was encouraging to see how many candidates attended the THSS forum. Clearly, there was a shared understanding that students represent a large demographic of new voters.

If we are introduced to politics at a young age, we are more likely to vote and voice opinions.

Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney secondary and a member of the school’s student council.