If you don’t vote, kick yourself in the face

If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhere between the ages of 18 and 30 - not a demographic typically known for heading to the polls in droves come election time.

Indeed, there are a lot of reasons not to vote in the upcoming civic election. But, there is also a host of compelling reasons why you should fill out a ballot on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

You don’t need to be a political scientist to gauge the dissatisfaction many feel about the six years Sam Katz has spent as mayor of this city. The 59-year-old has made decisions that will impact Winnipeggers for 30 years to come.

One need look no further than city council’s decision this past May to approve a deal to hire Veolia, a French multinational, to design and build $661 million in upgrades to two sewage-treatment plants.

The deal binds the city for 30 years, which is how long Veolia will help manage the plants.

That means when Katz is dead, or spending the last of his days in Scottsdale, Arizona, a decision he helped make will be impacting you while you’re still in your prime.

Or take, for example, Katz’s insistence on developing Waverley West. With the vacancy rate hovering at around one per cent, it’s impossible to find a good apartment downtown if you’re a student. And the mayor wants to build more houses in the suburbs?

Clearly something is wrong here.

And clearly it affects our everyday lives.

If you feel powerless to change things, one way you can make your voice heard is by voting. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

Municipal officials often ignore young people because we don’t vote. It’s not that Katz or any other politician wants to ignore young people, they just have no reason to pay attention to us. Seniors get a deluge of benefits from all levels of government, not because they’re old and frail, but because they consistently vote.

If politicians knew young people could potentially swing an election, their policies would invariably cater to young people. We never vote, so they never have to worry about the vacancy rate or about a backlash at the polls over Veolia.
With voter turnout as low as it is, Katz’s policies are made for his supporters, not his constituents. Young people can change that by becoming voters and actively engaging in their government.

This issue of The Uniter marks the beginning of our “Better Voter Series.” Every week until the election, we’ll explore a different topic related to the election. This week, it’s fringe candidates (pages 5 and 9). Next week, it’s accountability.

Our coverage isn’t comprehensive, of course. Anyone serious about voting in the upcoming election will want to check out www.winnipegelection.ca, a website that features the latest news, information about previous civic elections and info on how you can determine what your ward is if you don’t already know.

Get out there and vote. If you don’t, kick yourself in the face.

Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)

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