Brockton School in North Vancouver was abuzz on Monday as students got to exercise their democratic right in a mock federal election – filling out ballots and popping them in electoral boxes.
The school was just one of more than 7,000 across Canada taking part in Student Vote, a national parallel election that offers students under the voting age the opportunity to experience the voting process firsthand. Elementary and secondary schools across North and West Vancouver were also part of the action.
Just like the real election results, a Liberal minority government was called early. By 9 p.m. eastern standard time on Sept. 20, 740,515 votes were reported from 5,478 schools, with results from all 338 federal electoral districts.
The Liberal Party won 117 seats and 24 per cent of the popular vote, forming a minority government and Justin Trudeau won in his seat in the riding of Papineau, Que. While in the real election, the Liberals were projected to secure 158 seats and 32.2 per cent of the popular vote as of 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 21.
On election day, students at Brockton, voting in the North Vancouver riding, commented that they were in support of the Liberals.
Lochlan Wylie, 14, said he had voted to keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in power, saying the Liberals' climate plan was the deciding factor.
“Well, the climate crisis needs heavier addressing,” he said. “Like [Andrew] Weaver, the [former] leader of the [B.C.] Green Party said, the Liberals have an amazing climate action plan, and I think that's the main reason I'm going to vote for them, as well as their relations with First Peoples.”
He said he “would have voted for the New Democratic Party or the Green Party of Canada” but
“it’s such a small margin that the Liberals need all the help they can get.”
Fellow Brockton student Mckenna Lawson, 14, said Liberal was her choice too.
“It’s always sort of been Liberal versus Conservatives and, for me, I agreed with what the Liberals were doing most and voting for them showed support for that and, also, if this was the real election it would help us not go back to a minority government,” she said, adding that she also liked the Liberals' policies in regards to their work with First Peoples and reconciliation.
Although, results showed that other students voting in the North Shore ridings of North Vancouver, Burnaby North-Seymour and West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country heavily favoured the NDP, with NDP candidates Tammy Bentz, Avi Lewis and Jim Hanson all getting elected. In contrast to the real election, where all three Liberal candidates held on to their seats.
In the mock election, students favoured the NDP over the Conservatives.
The NDP won 31 seats in B.C. alone. Overall, the NDP won 107 seats and 29 per cent of the popular vote, forming the official opposition, with Jagmeet Singh winning his seat in the riding of Burnaby South. While in reality, the NDP is on track to win 25 seats, with Singh holding on to his.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party won 91 seats and 25 per cent of the popular vote and Erin O’Toole won his seat in the riding of Durham, Ont. In contrast to the real election, where the conservatives are expected to win 119 seats. In the mock election, the Bloc Québecois won 20 seats and took two per cent of the popular vote and Yves-François Blanchet lost his seat in the riding of Beloeil-Chambly, Que. In reality, Bloc Québecois won 32 seats and 7.7 per cent of the popular vote and Blanchet held on to his seat.
In the mock election, the Green Party won three seats and 10 per cent of the popular vote and Annamie Paul lost her seat in the riding of Toronto Centre, ON. Paul also lost her seat in the real election and the Greens only won two seats and 2.3 per cent of the vote.
The Student Vote program has been run by CIVIX in collaboration with Elections Canada since 2004. In the month leading up to the election, students engage in discussions about the future of the country, research the party platforms, and evaluate the leaders and the local candidates.
Once the real federal election is officially called, schools can compare their results.
Shannon Leggett, who teaches social studies to grades 10 through 12 at Brockton, said the program helped students get into the habit of voting from an early age and understand why it’s important.
“The main point of it is to get students involved early in exercising their democratic rights to vote, especially because there can tend to be a low voter turnout,” she said.
Leggett has been running Student Vote at the school since 2016.
“We try to teach the most important things, including the platforms of the federal and local candidates, and we look at CBC’s poll tracker every day,” she said.
During class discussions, students’ top concerns included climate change and COVID-19, but they also brought up the anger surrounding a pointless election being called that has cost Canadians $650 million, Leggett said.
“I was just so impressed by … the kind of conversations that we had in class, I love politics, so it was really engaging for me as well as,” she said.
'We're a new generation, and we need to vote'
Grade 10 Brockton students also had the opportunity to see how an election day works first-hand, running the school’s Student Vote themselves.
Put simply, Mckenna said “it’s been hectic, especially in a short time frame.”
“It's been really busy trying to get everything done and worked out, but I think if we can get 100 per cent of voter turnout today then It'll be worth it,” she said.
Mckenna said it had been great to see all the students turning out to vote, from the younger students in Grade 5 to the eldest in Grade 12.
“It's been quite a nice learning experience,” she said. “I've never been much of a politics person but doing this unit and learning about it has definitely given me some insight into what politics is really about.”
Lochlan added that when he could, he would be casting his vote for real, and he encouraged others in his generation to make sure they do the same.
“I think it's extremely important to vote,” he said. “If you don't have your say then you might be upset with how the government is run, and, well, you could have had your say.
“I think there will be some heavy political changes if everyone starts voting.
“We're a new generation, and we need to vote.”
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.