The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Students suffer election fatigue

By in News

TANNARA YELLAND
Associate News Editor

Students’ apathy toward Canadian politics was not mollified by the announcement that the Liberal Party of Canada will seek a fall election.

Michael Ignatieff, the party’s leader, said recently that the current government’s “time is up” and claims that he intends to force a non-confidence vote in Parliament as soon as possible.

If a fall federal election does occur it will be the fourth in five years.

Voters young and old appear to be growing impatient with the time and money elections divert from more important issues.

Voter turnout was down to 58.8 per cent in the last federal election, which took place October 2008. In the 2004 election, only 39 per cent of voters aged 18 to 21 and 35 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds voted. Turnout increased steadily over each following age group, declining slightly in the oldest grouping.

Arts and Science Students’ Union president Katie Salmers says she feels like her vote won’t count for anything considering there has been an election almost every year that she has been eligible to vote.

“How many elections are we going to have?” she asked. “I guess until we get a majority.”

Minority parliaments are historically volatile since the governing party does not wield controlling legislative power.

Jeffrey Steeves, a political studies professor at the U of S, says this seeming stalemate in federal politics is at least partially attributable to the fact that Canadians tend to support the party that traditionally speaks to their region. The Bloc Québécois usually wins such strong support in Quebec that other parties are often all but shut out in a province that holds 75 of the 308 parliamentary seats.

“Despite the characterization of the House of Commons as the ”˜people’s House of Commons,’ I think Canadians in general, not just young Canadians, see Parliament as indifferent to the major issues facing average Canadians or (as) ineffectual,” said Steeves.

Another problem is the “increasing centralization of power into the hands of the prime minister and the Prime Minister’s Office,” added Steeves.

Lack of political knowledge among youth could also be a factor.

“Many university students have only a passing awareness of our political system and thus do not have an interest in politics,” Steeves said.

Salmers, for one, says she does not want to vote when elections are as frequent as they are because, she wonders, “did my vote even count last time?” It is important to note that while students often decline to participate in national politics, either out of disillusionment or ignorance, many students are getting more involved in international issues. Steeves says his students are increasingly searching for work overseas, focusing principally on teaching and development.

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image: Crestock

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