Despite not being eligible to vote in the upcoming provincial election in Ontario, some Windsor-Essex high school students continue to raise their voices on the issues that matter to them.
After two years of a global pandemic, young people who spoke to CBC News say they are more aware than ever of the impact government decisions are having on their daily lives. And now, in the midst of a recovering economy, many of them are worried about the affordability of higher education and housing, as well as the accessibility of health care.
Even though the 17-year-olds whom CBC News spoke to will all turn 18 in the coming months, they are unable to vote for the political party that best fits the future they want. They said it is disappointing that their votes do not count, even though they will have to deal with the elected political party for the next four years.
“The government affects us,” said 17-year-old Kayla Kwiatkowski.
“No matter how you see it, the government is going to affect your daily life.”
Accessible health care
Kwiatkowski, a Grade 12 student at St. Thomas Villanova Catholic High School in LaSalle, said she’s particularly interested in a better pharmacare program in Ontario.
Currently, some residents are eligible for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, which covers most of the cost of approximately 5,000 prescription drugs.
People under the age of 24, who are not covered by a private insurance plan, are covered by that plan, according to the government’s website.
According to latest drug report that the Department of Health released for 2015-16, an estimated 2.2 million people in the province were uninsured.
Additionally, a study looking at drug prices in 2015 found that Canada had the second highest drug costs for common conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
For Kwiatkowski, the question is personal. She said a family member has diabetes and without health benefits the cost of medication would be unbearable.
Economic recovery, post-secondary tuition
When Hamza Hamud, 17, goes shopping or refueling, he says he notices how the cost of living has risen.
“I care about the economy,” said Hamud, who attends Windsor Islamic High School.
“You see when you start buying stuff yourself, paying bills, I see inflation… the price has doubled.”
In April, Statistics Canada reported that prices were about 6.7% higher than they were at the same time last year. According to the data collector, this is the highest inflation for 31 years.
Amid rising costs, these students are also considering pursuing post-secondary education, which they say has not become more affordable.
“As a high school student who will be pursuing post-secondary education, I really look at the outrageous amount of student debt that is imposed on every student who chooses to pursue higher education,” said 17-year-old Krista. Abdel Sater.
“The future of this country needs some kind of support from government officials to advance our knowledge and contribute to Canadian society and economy.”
Kwiatkowski also said the cost of schooling, as well as the lack of affordable housing, have a significant impact on decisions about his education.
“I can’t go to college, to any college I want, because I can’t afford it,” she said.
Should the voting age be lowered?
Future Majority communications manager Meshall Awan told CBC News that her organization had advocated for the voting age to be lowered to 16.
Future Majority is a national, non-partisan organization that encourages young people to vote.
“We know that more than ever, young Canadians are very active politically. They talk politics, they attend protests more than older people,” she said.
“If we lower the voting age, we will see action on these big issues that affect all Canadians.”
She said when young people are engaged at a younger age, it will allow for “long-term democratic engagement”.
“We have decades of research showing that when young people engage early, you actually create a generation of lifelong voters,” she said, adding that it “threatens democracy” and creates more polarization if young people are not part of the conversation. .
The teens CBC News spoke to said they felt ready to vote and that not being able to do so is disappointing.
“It’s really very isolating,” said Abdel Sater, who turns 18 just weeks after the June 2 provincial elections.
“Even if, say, I agree with the political party that turns out to be the winner, I still feel like someone is imposing something on me without my having a say in the matter.”
Abdel Sater said she wants politicians to include everyone in the conversation, even those who cannot vote.
“Government officials should amplify youth voices in political spaces, starting in high school,” she said.