Students did something amazing yesterday – they decided who would lead our province. Reading through the news this morning it was clear that voter turn out was considerably higher than in 2008 – 57% of eligible voters came out and cast their ballot and everywhere it was clear that young Albertans including students made up a significant part of that improvement. Throughout this campaign we have been talking about how many students are going to come out and vote and you did, we talked to thousands of you on the phone before the polls closed and overwhelmingly you told us you were getting out and voting.
As promised, it was an exciting election. It was a tight race from start to finish and throughout the campaign pundits and politicians talked about how important young Albertans would be to the final result. Regardless of how you voted on Monday I am sure you would agree that our impact was felt. The final tally was far from what any pollster predicted and the next morning saw many in the media comment that it was younger Albertans who made the choice to not only vote, but vote for a party not often associated with students that made the difference.
Students from Alberta are an incredibly diverse group, and their political beliefs cross all ideologies and platforms, and are far from the monolith that is often portrayed. No matter how you voted, I want to say thank you for voting on behalf of all three of our students’ unions and on behalf of the hundreds of volunteers in the campaign. And also a big thank you to those volunteers – without your dedication and effort thousands of students might have missed this great opportunity to be heard.
Students made a difference this election. That makes us powerful.
We have already begun calling thousands of students, reminding them to get out and vote tomorrow. Polls are open from 9:00am to 8:00pm and if you need more information on where to vote or what you need to bring we suggest checking out Elections Alberta at elections.ab.ca.
We have also received a lot of questions around who should we vote for. That’s a pretty personal question, and the only real answer we can give is to encourage you to make an informed vote! Each of the parties have put out lots of promises in their platforms, some of it specifically targeting students:
- Extend loan grace periods and repayment schedules
- Increase grants for low-income, first-generation, and Aboriginal students
- Expand training, apprenticeship, and education in the workplace
- More summer job programs
- Allow community colleges to grant university degrees
- Offer tax credits for housing costs for students
- Eliminate tuition by 2025 by lowering it $250 a year
- Create a provincial post-secondary endowment fund
- Forgive 5% or $1,000 of student debt each year a grad stays in Alberta
- Eliminate parental contributions from student loan calculations
- Expand distance education
- Freeze tuition and reduce it by 10%
- Forgive $1,000 of student debt each year a grad stays in Alberta
- End non-instructional fees collected by universities and colleges
- Increase funding to institutions to replace lost revenue from fees
- Increase apprenticeship training
- Eliminate parental contributions from student loan calculations
- Replacing remission program with completion grants of $2,000 and a grant of $1,000 for grads who stay in Alberta in essential jobs
- More collaborative degrees between community colleges and universities
- Bursary program for students from rural Alberta
- $650 million in infrastructure across Alberta’s post-secondary institutions
- Forgives student debt for grads who stay in Alberta
- Limit on post-secondary tuition fee increases to inflation
- Eliminate parental contributions from student loan calculations
- Expand distance education
- Allow trades students to select a written or verbal exams
- Improve credit transfer between institutions
- Allow public funding to directly follow the student to their institution
- Expand education tax credits for students and donors to institutions
Naturally the parties are not just talking about student issues – and students care about much more than just post-secondary education – check out the parties’ main sites to explore their thoughts on all of the issues of this campaign:
John Dunsworth, the actor behind the character Mr. Lahey on Trailer Park Boys wants you to vote – yes, you!
John has been passionate about promoting voting and engaging citizens in the political process for many years, having directed the movie “John Dunsworth: The Candidate” about his own candidacy in an election before he found fame in Trailer Park Boys. And he isn’t the only one who wants to make sure Albertans, especially young Albertans turn out on April 23.
CAUS Executive Director Duncan Wojtaszek joined the panel discussing young voter turnout on Alberta Primetime last night. Everybody knows that this is the most competitive election Alberta has had in two decades and that no one knows the result on Monday night. Every vote is going to matter, no riding should be considered “safe” for the incumbent. Consider that an new voter who turned 18 was not even alive yet in 1993 when we had a election result that was not certain until the ballots were actually cast. A 18 year old new voter in 1971 when a government last lost an election in Alberta would be almost 60 years old today. This election is not just a rare occurrence – for many Albertans it will be the first time they have ever seen an election like this.
Check out the panel discussion on Alberta Primetime and make sure you get out and vote on April 23!
This was originally posted at Alberta Votes Matter, a great campaign looking to refocus conversations about what should matter to Albertans under 40 during the provincial election. Check out the other essay by Alberta leaders under 40 at www.albertavotesmatter.com and follow the campaign at @albertavotes
Students have been waiting a long time for this election; elections like this do not come around in Alberta very often. We knew it was going to be different not just because polling told us the result is not a foregone conclusion, or because Alberta politics finally have become interesting after a long period of repetitive banality. We knew it was going to be different because so many of us are going to vote, and this time our vote is going to matter.
There are over 200,000 post-secondary students in Alberta, most of whom come from Alberta, are over the age of 18, and will be eligible to vote on April 23. Those are enough votes to make the difference in deciding who gets to lead this province and who does not. Of course, only as long as they come out and vote.
I thought about that quandary for the past year, how were we going to get students out to vote? The answer seemed simple, we were going to ask them. The ideas behind voter identification and then getting those voters out to vote is a staple of any modern political campaign. More than anything else, getting as many of your supporters out to vote than the other team has become a staple of modern campaigns. What if we took that same approach, but instead of identifying supporters we just identified students, and reminded them of the importance of getting out and voting. And with voting day happening right during the stress of final exams, it has become even more important to send a reminder about casting a ballot.
This was the inspiration behind our Get Out The Vote campaign; a campaign much different than any we have run before. With over 10,000 students from the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge having already pledged to vote, we know it is working. More students than ever before in Alberta’s history are going to cast a ballot on April 23. In a time of voter apathy and a malaise around democratic participation we hope to reverse the trend and do our part to boost Alberta’s abysmal voter turnout. By encouraging students to vote for the first time, we hope to instill the values of engaged citizenship in our next generation.
Casting a ballot as a student in Alberta is not as easy as you would think. Sadly our election laws are perhaps the most paternalistic and difficult to navigate rules in the country. Students, for example, are singled out in the Elections Act to be forced to vote outside of the community they are studying in and have to cast a ballot where their “family home” is. We have tried in vain to update these laws but to date we have been unsuccessful. After all, the laws are made by politicians, and very few feel that students are the demographic who got them elected. That is going to change after this election.
I have been talking to students about this upcoming election for months, making sure they knew not just their rights, but the power they hold in their hand. Many ridings on April 23 are going to be decided by only a few votes. And it has been inspiring to see so many realize that this time, their voice is going to matter. We have done countless classroom visits, recruited a team of fantastic student volunteers, and talked to thousands of students. Without exception, everyone we have talked to knows how important this election is and how important it is to stand up and be counted.
If young Albertans come out and vote in this election, it is going to have an impact that extends well past the evening of April 23. By exercising our vote this election we are going to help decide the future of Alberta. We are going to have the power to tell our politicians to keep their promises, otherwise we will show them the door the next time we get out and vote.
Last night saw many students – not to mention many Albertans – tuning in to see the only debate between the party leaders during this election. For many, it was perhaps their first look at the leaders up close – after all every party except for the NDP are running with new leaders this election. Post-secondary education was a highlight a few times in the debate, notably with the NDP and the Liberals highlighting their post-secondary education platforms, and it is clear that post-secondary education is a major issue in this campaign, which should not be a surprise how many students are going to vote in this very competitive election.
With only eight days to go before April 23, all of the parties have presented the majority of their ideas and promises, including on post-secondary education. Finding out what different parties want to do after they get your vote is an important part of determining who you are going to cast your ballot for, so take the time to look at what the different politicians are saying and then make an educated vote.
It should be said though, that Alberta’s post-secondary education system is a complicated and big part of our provincial government, and it is really hard to boil down everyone’s concerns with getting in and going to school into just a few bullet points. You have dig to deeper to find for example that the Progressive Conservatives are also promising a new rural bursary as a part of their strategy for rural Alberta or that the Wildrose Party are promising that a energy dividend will help address the costs of education for students.
Getting a clear picture of a endless stream of news and promises is a challenge, so don’t be afraid to contact your local candidate, and ask them for their views on what matters to you. You can find out more information as well as how to contact each party from their websites:
The election campaign is only half done and we already have made a lot of progress! Thousands of students have signed the pledge and hundreds more are making the pledge each day – keep up the great work and make sure your friends know about the vote on April 23.
Your students’ union and the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) are not the only ones working hard this election to make sure students are heard this election and that our issues are being discussed during the election campaign. The Edmonton Journal wrote about the Get Out The Vote campaign as well as the 28 Faces campaign by our friends at the Alberta Students Executive Council. Check out their campaign at 28faces.com.
CAUS has also been working with our friends at Apathy is Boring to make our Get Out The Vote campaign more effective. Apathy is Boring a non-partisan project to educate young Canadians about democracy and increase youth voter turnout, a perfect partner for Get Out The Vote.
Be sure to check out their fantastic infographic looking at the common question young Alberta voters might have when navigating the maze of figuring out how to vote!
The Students’ Union at the University of Alberta hosted the first of two forums for the provincial election, this one for the candidates in Edmonton-Riverview which includes part of the University of Alberta campus and is the home to dozens of students. Post-secondary education was a hot topic among the candidates, as the debate comes hot on the heals of several post-secondary related announcements from the past week.
John Corie (Wildrose), Arif Khan (Liberal), Lori Sigurdson (NDP), Timothy Wong (Alberta Party), and Steve Young (PC) all were present to highlight their campaigns and encourage students to get out and vote on April 23.
Dozens of students came out for the lunch time event, peppering the candidates with questions about our environment, our K-12 education system and of course issues around the affordability and accessibility of our campuses. Given the proximity of the election campaign to our exams the debate was also livestreamed over the internet for students unable to make it to the forum.
Get Out The Vote volunteers were also on hand, collecting pledges and reminding students how important is to cast their ballot on April 23.
Edmonton-Riverview is expected to be a hotly contested riding, with the sitting MLA, Liberal Dr. Kevin Taft, retiring and active campaigns from all five parties. Only 2,300 votes decided the contest in 2008 – and that was with the Leader of the Official Opposition being the incumbent. All parties are expecting a much closer race this time and with polls indicating that there is three-way and in many cases the possibility of four-way races in Edmonton ridings Edmonton-Riverview will likely be a riding where students who get out and vote will make the difference between who wins, and who loses.
Elections are not always called at the most convenient time – and that would be obvious this election as April 23 is the middle of exams for most of us. One of the most common reasons people don’t cast a ballot on election day is that they simply can’t make it to the ballot box in their constituency during voting hours on election day. For those voters, there are two options to make sure you still get to vote – going to the advance poll or using a special ballot.
The advance poll is available in your constituency on April 19, 20, and 21 between 9:00am and 8:00pm. You can find the address for your specific advance poll online at Elections Alberta by entering your postal code.
The other choice is to use a special ballot which will come to you via Canada Post and you will then be responsible for returning it to your returning officer in time to be counted on April 23. If you require a special ballot you need to request one as soon as is possible, after all it is only 18 days until the election! You can request one online from Elections Alberta. It is crucial that you take the necessary steps to return the ballot in time as any ballot received after polls close will not be counted.
This is especially important for students who are studying away from their permanent residence. You have to vote where you live, but determining where that is your responsibility.
The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union hosted the Get Out The Vote Campaign’s first all candidates debate of the election. All four candidates contesting Lethbridge-West were in attendance to debate a wide range of issues and answer questions from students.
The format of the debate allowed candidates to debate three issue areas: fiscal policy, energy and the environment, and post-secondary education.
The debate on post-secondary got heated when the candidates disagreed over the appropriate level of funding provided to Alberta’s universities and colleges. NDP candidate Shannon Phillips slammed the Government for the three years it froze funding to post-secondary, and Greg Weadick PC candidate responded by highlighting the 2% increase provided to Alberta’s institutions in the latest budget.
After the debate was finished students were able to engage with the candidates and their campaign teams and ask them questions one on one.
The crowd of students in attendance was enormous; in fact, we had twice as many students as seats. This is only further proof that students are engaged and planning on voting in this election. For the first time in the lives of many students, Alberta is in the midst of an exciting election. Students know their vote can make a difference, and this election we will be hitting the polls en mass on April 23.
In Alberta you need to be on the voter’s list in order to receive a ballot – not to worry if you were not enumerated in the fall – it is really easy to add yourself to the list. Just visit Voterlink on Elections Alberta’s website at www.voterlink.ab.ca along with your Alberta driver’s licence or identification card and you will be all set.
Registering before election day will mean that you will already be on the list and ready to go as soon as you get to your polling station. But not to worry if you don’t remember until election day – Albertans can add themselves at the polling station to the voter’s list, provided they have identification proving both their identity and address.
If you have any questions about the logistics of getting on the voter’s list contact Elections Alberta at (780) 427-7191 or at email@example.com.