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Youth involvement in Vancouver byelection was unusually high

Three young candidates ran in the Vancouver byelection, which is a higher number than in previous elections

Morgan Weverink on his way to the BC Young Liberals Annual General Meeting. Photo: Perrin Grauer
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Reported by Perrin Grauer

Having a trio of candidates under the age of 30 who ran in last month’s Vancouver city council byelection can be seen as an anomaly, says one political expert.

This is because young people in Canada and other Western countries tend to view government as rather unresponsive to their interests, according to Steven Wolden, associate politics professor at Simon Fraser University.

Thus, they are more drawn to less rigidly structured systems of engagement, such as social movements. “Traditional politics is traditional and it’s institutionalized, very hierarchical,” Wolden said.

“Younger people’s values tend to be less hierarchical and more horizontal, more egalitarian, and so they are attracted to organizations that are also more horizontal.”

The three young candidates predictably lost.

 Young candidates age mentioned more often than others

Diego Cardona, Vision Vancouver’s youngest-ever council candidate with a strong history of award-winning advocacy, views participation as key to making the youth voice count, regardless of outcome.

He was surprised that so much emphasis was given to his age.

“In order for young people really to be respected in these decisions we need to be there,” Cardona said.

“The headlines of every single article introducing me to the public was that I was a 21-year-old running for office, not a 21-year-old who is a nationally-recognized refugee rights advocate,” noting that his opponents were not described as “75-year-old[s] running for office.”

Youth getting involved in politics in a variety of ways

Morgan Weverink, a member of the BC Young Liberals and former Langara journalism student, said he sees young people engaging in all sorts of ways, and views voting as the most important.

“Whether you feel like voting or not, whether you feel like your vote matters, a ballot that’s cast is worth infinity times more than a ballot that isn’t cast,” Weverink said. “You may not feel that making a little check mark on a piece of paper matters, but it does.”

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