Opinion

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- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

By the time Canadians go back to the polls for a federal election in 2019, millennials will be the largest cohort of voters in the country. Every Canadian born between 1980 and 2000 will be eligible to vote.

This group has traditionally been less likely to cast a ballot than their elders, but events in the United States this week may reveal how foolhardy it would be for any politician to discount this group of young citizens and those who are aging into it.

Emma Gonzalez, a student at the Florida high school where 17 people lost their lives in an 8-minute shooting rampage, has become a national figure. Her powerful speech calling out the US President was shared by every major news outlet and millions of individuals on social media within hours.

"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you," brought a chorus of "Shame!" In 2016, political contributions from the National Rifle Association were at an all time high, and every politician on the receiving end of those donations is now the subject of Facebook posts with the exact dollar amounts received. "We're too young to understand how the government works? We call BS. If you agree, register to vote." This should have politicians from both parties facing mid-term elections seriously considering their options.

The speed with which the March for Our Lives event has mobilized students across the United States and around the world indicates just how quickly those under thirty can move a message. As one commentator said, "They all have cell phones and they know better than anyone how to use them."

And is it any different in Canada or locally? While millennials are not united behind a single political party, they certainly have strong opinions on issues and are not afraid to call out authorities. These Tweets – retweeted or liked by our Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller in the past few weeks – have been removed, but not before they drew the ire of young local voters. Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 7.35.38 PM

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They may appeal to some of Mr. Miller's traditional Conservative base, but if the party is looking for a growing edge, the discussion around guns and human rights will have to be more respectful and nuanced than these cartoons would suggest.

The Owen Sound Hub will be reporting on the political activities – both capital and small "p" – of the millennial cohort in both the municipal and provincial elections this year, and I recommend that the federal parties pay close attention for 2019.


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