Saturday, November 08, 2008

Council and Mayoralty candidates facing a youth backlash

While they are planning to vote in rather high numbers, a student group from Northwest Community college is finding that many of the candidates running for council and the Mayoralty are not addressing their issues, nor it seems taking any particular interest in taking their message to their demographic.

The Daily News provided a look into the electoral mindset of the younger end, asking if they were motivated to vote and if they were informed enough on the issues.

We’re not sure how many young people sit down with Daily news each night, or how many might tune into the Mix, CBC or TV 7 for whatever limited coverage they may offer, but with more non traditional ways of seeking out information available now, we suspect that young voters are actually quite engaged in this process, if they are seeking out information.

Whether they are pulling their information from the Council and Mayor and School board topics on the chat boards of hackingthemainframe, or from the daily updates posted on line at the Northern View’s impressive civic election portal, the details on the election campaign are out there, the information savvy generation probably should be as up on the issues as anyone if they’re inclined to seek that information out.

And if you examine the thoughts relayed by the Daily News from students in Hondo Arendt’s German History class at North West Community College, the indications are that young electorate is motivated, so much so that this group of council candidates seems to have missed the boat when it comes to a key group and their issues.

Students hope for change at city hall
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Page three

With advanced polling beginning yesterday at city hall, two questions popped up that seems to be in mind every election: do the young voters care and are they informed enough to make a real choice?

Nick Brown just mobbed to Prince Rupert about one month ago and the applied coastal ecology student said he was concerned about the city’s recycling centre and hopes to get some answers during this election campaign.

“There’s no access and there is no initiative to motivate people to recycle, whether that be a weekly pickup like they have in most cities or larger receptacles where you can drop it off instead of going half-way out of town to drop it off,” said Brown.

Brown said there isn’t enough motivation to drive the young and old to recycle. And he added that’s just the excuse they need to throw their recyclables in to the general garbage.

A quick survey in Hondo Arednt’s German history class at Northwest Community College found that eight of 10 eligible voters would be there at the polling stations on Nov. 15 to have their say.

The two who said they wouldn’t be voting, said that the main reason was that they didn’t feel very informed about the upcoming municipal election. One of Arendt’s students was vocal about why he was planning to vote Nov. 15.

”I want to see some changes because what they did with that contract for Ms. (Tanalee) Hesse was complete (expletive),” said History and Political Science student Willie Wekel.

Wekel said he believed that the non-tendered contact awarded to Hesse made current Mayor Herb Pond look like “an idiot.”

Arendt’s class listed several issues that were important to them going into the municipal election, not the least of which was access to jobs, a familiar tune repeated around town.

They also said they were concerned about infrastructure, the violence taking place downtown, the condition of buildings downtown and that none of the current city councillors candidates or mayoral candidates have made the effort to visit NWCC to find out what students and young people think.

Wekel did not think that city councils in the past have listened enough to the city’s young people, and he said that there isn’t enough representation for the young on city council.

He said that was why he would be voting for Jason Shellenberg, the 20-year old NWCC political science student who is standing for council.

“I think it would be great if he got in and I will definitely vote for him,” said Wekel.

Many of the students felt more informed about the US presidential election than the Prince Rupert municipal election, blaming the coverage that the race has received in the media compared to the coverage of Prince Rupert’s municipal race/

According to the Institute for Research on Public Policy(IRPP) report, less than 40 percent of potential first time voters turned out for the 2004 federal election, a lower proportion than their older compatriots and their peers in nearly all comparable countries.

That report was authored by the IRPP’s Henry Milner, who noted the “political dropouts” – young citizens inattentive to the political landscape and lacking knowledge to choose – constitute a growing group in democracies.

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