Future Majority hosts Next Gen Leaders Debate
Premier a no-show
On Monday, October 19, Future Majority hosted a live Leaders Debate via Zoom, connecting about 160 Saskatchewan youth with NDP leader, Ryan Meili and Saskatchewan Party Minister for the Environment, Dustin Duncan.
Scott Moe, leader of the Saskatchewan Party, was not in attendance at the event – leaving young people with varying emotions. Some felt the denied invitation was a clear demonstration of Moe’s lack of interest in Saskatchewan youth, while others saw it as an opportunity to hear an alternate perspective.
“To be frank I was disappointed but not surprised at Mr. Moe’s absence. People under 35 make up the largest voting bloc in Saskatchewan, yet Mr. Moe’s inability to join the debate provides a narrative that concerns both current and future are not a priority,” said Samira Wagner, who is in her final year at the University of Regina, majoring in Political Science and completing a certificate in Public Relations.
Scott Moe told CBC Saskatchewan that Duncan is a good person to stand in for the debate because “he will put forward the clear differences between the two parties when it comes to our records of investment in post-secondary education.”
Wagner stated her concern with Moe’s lack of awareness surrounding the priorities of Saskatchewan youth: “I find the fact that Mr. Moe believes the only and top priority for young voters is of post-secondary education out of touch and careless, moreover, if that was the case perhaps Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor should have taken the spot.”
“It’s not all about the guys at the top,” said Levi Perrault, a recent University of Regina graduate and University of Saskatchewan law student. Perrault said he was not overly bothered by Duncan taking Moe’s place. “I think that often times when you have the leader of a party come in they talk very generally, so by having Minister Duncan there I thought it actually kind of focused the debate a little bit more.”
The debate focused on four main topics: Indigenous issues, affordability, [mental] health care, and jobs and the future.
These are issues that directly impact young people in Saskatchewan regarding their current life and possible future within the province, making them important for politicians to address. People aged 18-30 hold 35 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan.
Many youth in Saskatchewan feel as though the politicians at all levels of government are not doing enough to connect and prioritize young people.
When asked if she thought politicians have done enough to engage young votes, Wagner said, “No. Engagement with young people seems to be a low priority in Saskatchewan’s political arena. Young people feel ignored by politicians and it is time to start taking our concerns with more than a nod and a grain of salt. Working to engage young people starts with listening. Listen to the priorities of young voters, listen to our ideas, our concerns, just listen. Young people should be reached out to not only during campaigning but when platforms are being built, when strategies are being discussed. We need to be a part of the arena every year, not just election years.”
“I know when it comes to federal and provincial politics it’s easy, everyone sees the tweets and the Facebook posts – even young people have an idea of what is going on,” Perrault discussed the importance of young people being involved in local politics, not just provincial and federal campaigns. “When it comes to municipal, ground level stuff: who’s building your roads, who are your parents’ property taxes going to – that’s where the engagement is really lacking, I think.”
Those who received an invitation to this debate were representatives from two out of the six parties running in this election. This begs the question: did this debate give young people full perspective on their voting options this election?
As the Liberal Party, Green Party, Progressive Conservative Party, and the Buffalo Party were not invited, I spoke to University of Saskatchewan student and Future Majority’s Saskatchewan Coordinator, Kehan Fu.
Fu mentioned that the organization discussed the possibility of including all candidates yet came to the realization that it would likely be less effective and productive compared to just hosting the two major parties.
“I think that the difficult part was … when you have six parties present, if you start dividing the speaker times and wanting to include community partners [Indigenous, LGBTQ*, etc.], I think six people speaking on every issue, from an operational perspective was just really hard for us [Future Majority] to work around.”
Overall, the debate provided young people in Saskatchewan with some answers to questions that have been left out of other debates and conversations. Yet young people still have fears and concerns.
“I fear that our province isn’t willing to elect a government that will prioritize our environment. If we do not tackle the climate crisis, we will not have the Saskatchewan we know and love around for future generations,” said Wagner.
With options like mail-in ballots and advanced voting, many young people are pledging to go to the polls and have their voices heard. If politicians want a chance of getting into office, they must make youth priorities their priorities.
Apathy is a common feeling for young people because politicians have ignored the voices of youth for far too long. If you are feeling apathetic or like politics don’t affect you, remember Wagner’s advice. “It is okay to feel apathetic, but in retrospect, if you have the right to vote you have a privilege that so many don’t have, even in our province so use it. An election is an opportunity to decide what you want for your province’s future. In a digital era, we have endless access to information, so it is paramount to encourage those around you to research the parties, pressing issues, and individual politicians.”