Students grapple with consequences of provincial election
Moe handed another mandate
The victory of Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party following the October 26 provincial election – the first since Moe took over the party from former leader Brad Wall in 2017 – provoked a vast array of emotions throughout the province. Some were jumping for joy and others felt extremely hopeless.
Young people across the province had mixed emotions about the outcome. Some, like Carter Nameth, a fifth year University of Regina student, felt relieved. “I think it’s good in the sense that there won’t be big political change to adapt to on top of the ever-changing circumstances of COVID.”
Others like Ret Brailsford, University of Regina education graduate and current student, expressed displeasure with the outcome. “I’d say it is bad. Moe didn’t even attend the virtual debate held by our student unions. That tells me he doesn’t care about our vote. It tells me he is unwilling to discuss topics that we are interested in,” Railsford said. “We care about women’s rights, the rights of BIPOC, reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples, the climate crisis, and the job market we are entering. At the end of our degrees, we decide if we want to stay here or go. We aren’t tied to mortgages so many of us can and will go. Ironically, one of Moe’s talking points was of him leaving the province shortly after high school. My friends and I are currently discussing doing the same thing.”
Education in Saskatchewan has faced its fair share of challenges, especially though the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students are concerned about the future of education with the continuance of Sask Party leadership.
Samira Wagner, who is in her final year of a Political Science degree at the U of R has many fears and concerns about the outcome of the election. “Education in Saskatchewan is already suffering. I don’t think this government will do much to solve that. These next years will be a challenging time for education. I don’t think our education can remain healthy and sustainable with more cuts, especially during a pandemic.”
When asked what he feels the impacts on higher Saskatchewan will be, Brailsford said, “Very bad. Moe used the politicized mask use in school all summer and said he wouldn’t mandate it because he cared about our mental health. But at the same time, Tristan Durocher was on his front lawn advocating for better mental health services and Moe sent the cops after him. It’s frankly pathetic and poor leadership.”
Young people across the globe are demanding that their voices be heard by those in power. They are attempting to connect with representatives to ensure that the future of young people is just and sustainable. Unfortunately, some leaders are more enthusiastic about the inclusion of youth than others. We witnessed this in October 2020 at the Saskatchewan Next Gen Leaders Debate hosted by Future Majority where leader of the NDP, Ryan Meili attended the event and Saskatchewan Party Leader, Scott Moe sent Minister of the Environment Dustin Duncan in his place.
Thinking ahead, it is important to discuss youth engagement and how to improve youth involvement both on and off election days.
When asked if he thinks young people in Saskatchewan are politically involved enough, Brailsford answered, “No, I don’t think they are. I don’t necessarily blame them either. Neither the NDP nor Sask Party have effective enough strategies to encourage young people to vote. I don’t think many young folks feel represented in politics, so they choose not to engage. I wish the youth felt some agency to get engaged and demand representation, but many are more interested in starting their lives.”
Nameth answered the same question regarding youth engagement and said, “No. I think young people ‘follow the leader’ with whoever they’re told to or whoever their parents vote for.”
There is a lot of room for growth in regard to youth engagement and representation in the Canadian political atmosphere.
“The thing I am most concerned about is the lack of diversity within the political arena. Having one party have such a substantial majority means a lack of diverse opinions. One party has arguably too much power over the trajectory of a whole province,” said Wagner.
With the lack of diversity throughout many parts of the province, many young people who grow up with a worldview different than the norms often struggle to want to stay.
“I have always lived here but I’m questioning if I’ll stay,” said Brailsford. “I want to stay and help contribute to my community. As a future educator, however, I don’t feel like this province wants me here.”
As young children in Saskatchewan continue to envision growing up in the province, there are many young adults who are weighing the dream to make Saskatchewan their forever home with the struggling market to find employment, affordable housing, and all the other basic necessities.
“I love Saskatchewan,” said Wagner. “I am open to trying out new places, but this is home. That being said, I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the direction this province is going, and it is something that is on my mind and will play a role in where I call ‘home.’”
The election results either validated fears for the future or made people feel comfortable and safe. Unfortunately, for many young people and marginalized groups, it is not the latter.
“My immediate fear is that more Indigenous folks won’t get the representation they deserve. I’m also scared for women that this government isn’t interested in their rights either,” said Brailsford. “Long term, I’m scared for jobs in the province. Moe keeps beating the dead horse of oil and gas instead of diversifying our economy.”
Nameth expressed a similar fear, “my biggest concern is the lack of jobs everywhere, leading to young people leaving to work elsewhere.”
Wagner expressed big picture fears for the future saying, “My concern is that we are becoming more and more polarized. We cannot listen and learn from one another; this means folks who are feeling isolated will leave and seek residency elsewhere. I am worried we are not taking the climate crisis seriously enough. I want a Saskatchewan that bridges the environment and economy and finds value in transitioning our valuable oil and gas sector employees to renewables. We should focus on maintaining security for employment while putting the environment as a top priority.”