Take your children with you to the polls on Nov. 5
Hey, fellow parents, it’s time to push your kids to develop a lifelong habit. While you’re at it, why not make it a family affair?
I’m talking about voting. While the official date for Montreal’s general election is Sunday, Nov. 5, voting to fill the office of city mayor, as well as for borough mayors, city councillors and borough councillors in the city’s 19 boroughs has already begun with advance polling stations around the city.
On Sunday, my family trudged out in the rain and took part in this democratic exercise together, as we always do. Not only was it heartening to see so many people lined up patiently outside our local school gymnasium to cast their ballot (the returning officer for elections Montreal confirmed that 74,733 people — 6.54 per cent of registered electors — turned out to vote at the advance poll on Oct. 29), but that so many were there with their kids. I watched as many parents took the time to explain the process, even bringing their little ones with them into the voting booth.
Even though they may not be old enough to actually cast a ballot, it’s worth talking to children about the issues, and bringing them along to take part in the political process. Voting is habit forming; the earlier children are taught about the significance and importance of being informed and participating, the more likely they are to become lifelong voters.
Here’s why it matters. Voter turnout for municipal elections in Montreal has traditionally been quite low. We also know that older-age cohorts are more likely to vote than younger populations.
To be fair, there is research to suggest that while young people today are less engaged and less aware of their rights and responsibilities than earlier generations, they are not actually
Voter turnout for municipal elections in Montreal has traditionally been quite low.
disengaged from democratic life. It is true, however, that they are less likely to participate in these processes in traditional, measurable ways, and that includes voting. Knowledge of the elections process itself has been identified as a barrier to youth voting. It’s important for parents to help demystify the process.
While young Montrealers engage with our city every day, they don’t always see themselves — their experiences, needs and priorities — reflected back at them by our politicians and political parties. There’s a fairly obvious reason for that. Political parties at all three levels of government tend to be more focused on their own immediate political fortunes, and don’t necessarily have an interest or an investment in engaging directly with young people. Why? Because children and teens aren’t (yet) voters or taxpayers or homeowners, and are typically approached as dependents. But fostering a strong urban citizenship from a young age — and by this I mean a sense of ownership, a politically active and socially embedded sense of rights and responsibilities — is essential to the health and success not only of Montreal, but Canadian democracy as a whole.
To make this happen, you’ve got to start while they’re young. It’s worth noting that there are some great civic organizations out there focused on promoting awareness and understanding of our democratic process among young people, including the Montreal-based Apathy is Boring.
We’re in the final stretch of a pretty exciting election. Incumbent mayor Denis Coderre of Équipe Coderre and Valérie Plante, leader of Projet Montréal, are neck and neck for the mayoral seat. The latest CROP poll released Monday has Plante favoured by 39 per cent of voters, and Coderre by 37 per cent. The poll suggests that 17 per cent of voters remain undecided.
Voting is learned behaviour. So get out to vote, and bring your kids with you. Active, engaged citizens — not political parties — are the true guarantors of Canada’s democracy, and tomorrow’s voters are the ones who will ensure that Canada has a healthy, vibrant and resilient democracy as we move into the future.