Voting: What’s in it for me? (A very short study guide for students)

10 Oct 2013

By Zoey Duncan |

There was a time when being a post-secondary student went hand-in-hand with rebelling against administration, government and hygiene. Where campus culture and politics were as closely entwined as exam time and caffeine. That time of hyper-engagement did not overlap with my years in university.

School-wide, apathy for the extracurricular on my campus was strong. And voter turnout at student elections was low. “If students are our future, we’d better invent Facebook voting for federal elections”-low.

We’re talking single-digit-low.

It didn’t seem to resonate that the students elected to represent us were responsible for a multimillion-dollar students association budget, that they were the voice of students when the provincial government proposed changes to education funding and that they were paid a better salary than most of us would make upon graduation.

And it wasn’t much easier to get students excited about a civic election either. So how do you convince a student, who like many people balance work and families along with school, to put another thing on their to-do list?

Once we can answer a voter’s question of “what’s in it for me,” voting can seem a little less like a chore and more like an opportunity.

Here, with students in mind, are some social perks of educating yourself and voting in a municipal election:

  • A new dimension of conversations about transit! If your education is anything like mine, much of it was spent discussing transit access to school. Focus your pre-vote research on Calgary Transit funding and planning and not only will you be able to answer your own questions about why buses are sometimes too full to pick you up (especially when it’s -20 C), but you’ll be able to share it with newfound friends at the bus stop. And then start in on the at essay you’ve been procrastinating.

  • Communities making things happen! For some, campus life may be the first community they become part of as an adult and that’s a delightful gateway to getting passionate about issues or projects. It could start as something simple, like seeing an opportunity for a bike lane near campus, or adding your voice to a community association board. Search newspaper articles to see how other community groups have worked with the city to make their neighbourhood projects happen. Like in your education, you don’t have to wait for someone else to do it for you, you can make cool things happen yourself. Expect to make likeminded pals along the way.

  • Not to mention great new pick-up lines! When “What’s your major?” starts to feel stale, why not open a conversation with the studious cutie in Anthro with your newfound understanding of the ups and downs of Calgary’s rental market. Thanks to your research on city council’s secondary suite debates, and the pros and cons of building new communities you’re ready to woo (or at least educate—and that’s fun too, right?)!

And that’s just the beginning. Municipal politics sneaks up on your life in ways you might not have noticed. So why not make it work for you?


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