In 2015, young people were told that their vote mattered for once and if they voted on October 19th, politicians would hear their voice. Young people took that message to heart and voter turnout for youth (aged 18 to 24) increased the most of any age group. Compared to 2011, over half a million more young Canadians voted, resulting in 67% turnout of youth voters. The youth vote increased by one point in the 2019 election to 68%. What about this election? Will that trend continue and what sparks millennial interest in this campaign?
In this election, millennials and Generation Z will make up 40 percent of the voting population. Despite being the largest voting bloc, millennials are also the generation that spans the widest array of life stages. Some older millennials are nearing or have just turned 40 and may now be homeowners who have kids that are nearly teenagers, carrying all the costs associated with these life events. Others in this age group, Gen Z, are recent grads who are unemployed with student loans and staring down a volatile housing market. Two very opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to policy interests. A recent Abacus Data poll found that millennials, no matter their age, agree on one major issue: cost of living. But beyond that, there isn’t much agreement among millennials. Gen Z are in fact placing more importance on climate change, the environment, poverty and inequality and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. While older millennials are more concerned with taxes and government spending.
The Conservatives and NDP have released their platforms and have specific policies to attract millennials on both sides of the age divide. Young Canadians are still waiting on the Liberals to release their platform but if Budget 2021 and the Fall Economic Statement are any indication of the party’s direction, young people remain top of mind for the government.
Forward. For Everyone – The Liberal Approach to Millenials
For the Liberals, millennials have always been a key part of the equation since coming to power in 2015. In this election, they will look to appeal to both sides of the millennial voting bloc through positioning themselves as the party that fights for the middle class, helping remove barriers that impact inequality and support those who are facing hardship. For this, the Liberals will point to their promises including:
- Introducing a Home Buyers’ Bill of Right;
- Protecting the environment by pricing on carbon and successfully battling opposing provinces in court; and,
- Providing $10 a day child care for millions of children across Canada to help parents return to work.
Secure the Future – The Conservative’s Appeal to the Youth Vote
For the Conservatives, this election is all about securing the future. And despite low polling numbers among young people, the Conservatives are looking to secure the millennial vote. They are hoping to tap into those 2015 voters that voted Liberal, but after six years of increased taxes and an increased cost of living may now be disen with Justin Trudeau. To his credit, Erin O’Toole has been trying to move the party away from boutique tax credits and negative attacks to create a party that is more welcoming. To appeal to young people, he is promising to:
- Create one million jobs lost during the pandemic within one year of taking office;
- Making homeownership more achievable by building a million homes in three years and by switching 15 percent of federal real estate to housing; and,
- Introduce the Conservative first environmental plan that acknowledges climate change and puts a price on carbon.
Ready for Better – The NDP and Millennials
Despite the Liberals and Conservatives’ best efforts to attract and retain millennials, the NDP appears to be the front runner for millennials. Last week, Abacus Data found that through promising social policies to address affordability, the NDP had a slight lead over the Liberals among young voters. The NDP has been able to leverage their leader’s ability to relate to millennials through social media apps, including Tik Tok. The NDP has been using social media for a mix of fun content and affirming policy ideas that matter to young people, including:
- Expanding income security programs to build toward a point where everyone has access to a guaranteed livable basic income;
- Create a low-income supplement so that anyone using Employment Insurance benefits receives $2,000 a month; and,
- Having a target of reducing carbon emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 through eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.
The millennials of 2015 that helped the Liberals secure a majority have grown up and are facing new obstacles. This group is no longer interested in cannabis legalization or democratic reform. They’re concerned about paying taxes, comparing government spending to their own expenses and realizing hopes of homeownership. While younger millennials are eager for social changes, landing their dream job and being able to pay off their student loans.
As the campaign continues, it is without a doubt that parties will continue to court the youth vote. Through targeted policy ideas, each party is hoping that they can secure enough of the millennial vote to return to Ottawa as the governing party. Only time will tell who has the right ideas to entice these highly sought after votes.