Oak Bay High students are wading into local politics by participating in a mock vote a couple days before the 2018 municipal election on Oct.20. The students are researching Oak Bay candidates, participating in all-candidates meetings and comparing election results at the end.
Student organizers Leah Smith and Alexa Van Cuylenborg are running Student Vote, a parallel election program created by CIVIX, a non-partisan registered charity dedicated to building the skills and habits of active and engaged citizenship among young Canadians.
Smith and Van Cuylenborg have taken it a step further by participating in the Community Association of Oak Bay sponsored all-candidate’s meeting at Oak Bay High on Oct.11, as well as hosting their own all-candidates meeting during school hours for the student body.
“I have really enjoyed participating in the municipal student vote. Typically these elections have a lower turn out than a federal or provincial election as they may not be seen as holding the same value, however a municipal election is what really shapes a community and has first hand impact on all the citizens of Oak Bay,” said Smith.
The parallel election provides youth with an opportunity to experience the voting process firsthand.
“I have personally become more interested in local politics, particularly the key issues and policies of each candidate. I now realize how important it is to engage and educate the youth in our community in both local politics, and the political process,” Van Cuylenborg said.
Coinciding with the election, students under the voting age learn about government and the electoral process, research the parties and platforms, discuss relevant issues and cast ballots for their official election candidates. The results are shared publicly following the closing of the official polls.
“This is Oak Bay High’s third one. We’ve previously done a student vote for a provincial and federal election, and this will finish the triad,” said teacher Scott Alexander, who commends CIVIX on the quality of materials provided. “They are some of the best I have ever seen.”
The students will look at regional issues and compare them to the Oak Bay candidate’s platforms before casting their ballots in the CIVIX student vote on Oct.18. Three of the candidates running for Oak Bay council are former Oak Bay High graduates.
“We believe providing an all-candidates debate for the student body will be a very impactful experience as it will be addressing issues which will directly impact youth such as public transit, playgrounds and university student housing,” said Smith.
“We hope that by giving high school students the opportunity to be engaged in the political process now that they will continue to do so in the future,” Van Cuylenborg said. “I have personally become more interested in local politics, particularly the key issues and policies of each candidate. It has also greatly increased my appreciation for the political process, and the time and energy both the candidates, and the coordinators, invest into the election.
An all-candidates meeting for residents of Oak Bay will be held on Oct. 11 at Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, Oak Bay High, from 7 to 9 p.m., sponsored by the Community Association of Oak Bay.
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