St. Albert students will head to the polls Monday as part of a mock provincial election meant to prepare them for the real thing the next day.
Some 170,000 Alberta students will hold mock elections Monday as part of the Student Vote project. Run by CIVIX Canada, the project aims to get Alberta students engaged with local politics so they will vote when they become adults.
Some 1,347 Alberta schools are taking part in this year’s mock elections, with 27 of them in St. Albert, said CIVIX director of content Dan Allan – that’s about three quarters of Alberta’s schools.
“This is our highest number yet,” he said of the participation rate.
“I think an exciting competition like this one where it’s very back and forth between two leaders who are on opposite sides of the (political) spectrum has led to this engagement and excitement.”
Students have spent the last few weeks researching the parties and the issues in this election in preparation for the vote, Allan said. The hope is this exercise will make the students lifelong voters.
École Secondaire Sainte Marguerite d’Youville students will hold their Student Vote election Monday, said teacher Gidget Bouchard. They’ve been debating election issues in class and have taken the CBC’s Vote Compass survey to analyse their political positions. They’ve also had candidates Natalie Birnie (NDP), Neil Korotash (Alberta Party) and Jeff Wedman (UCP) visit their school so they could grill them on their party platforms.
The Gazette spoke with six ESSMY students taking part in Student Vote to determine what caught their interest in this election.
Grade 10 student Gabrielle Tobisch was concerned the UCP would cut teachers’ salaries and make classrooms larger.
“If they pay (teachers) a crappy salary they’re not going to do a good job,” she said, which would mean less educated workers and a worse economy.
She also said the UCP’s plans to make diploma exams worth 50 per cent of a Grade 12 student’s mark instead of 30 per cent as it is now would be unfair to students, as even a really smart student can bomb a test due to stress.
“If it’s (worth) 50 per cent, that’s it, my future’s down the drain.”
Grade 11 student Jaden Babiuk said the carbon tax was a huge issue for him, and that he wanted it kept in place.
“I think people should have to take responsibility for their carbon usage. I go outside and I play sports. I want to be able to breathe clean air.”
Grade 12 student Jennifer Labby said she opposed the UCP’s proposal to roll back minimum wage to $13 an hour for youths, noting she currently did the same work for the same wage as a 50-year-old co-worker at a retail outlet.
“If you’re doing the same job as a 23-year-old, why would you deserve a lower wage?”
All six students said they plan to vote in the Monday mock election, with four already having their vote decided. None were old enough to vote in the provincial election Tuesday, but a few planned to vote in this fall’s federal election.
The students urged voters to research the positions of their candidates instead of just voting for a party or a person, and to get out to the polls Tuesday – if not for themselves, then for their province.
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” Labby said.
Election Day is April 16.