Canada’s youth are mounting a serious challenge to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. With the Conservatives leading and Canadians heading to the polls in a few days, organizations like Avaaz have been working feverishly to oppose Harper’s bid for reelection.
Compared to the opposition parties, the Conservatives do not have much of an environmental platform and opinion polls decisively show that a majority of Canadians oppose Harper on all the major issues. Harper’s Conservatives are at odds with Canadians on a wide range of issues including Canada’s role in the war against climate change. According to an Avaaz national poll, conducted by Environics Research, 82 percent of Canadians want a UN treaty on climate change. Rather than work towards signing a binding treaty, Conservatives blocked progress at international climate change summits, they also made no progress on greenhouse gas emissions reductions and they left Canadian oceans vulnerable to oil spills
In addition to their crimes against the environment, Harper and the Conservatives have amassed an impressive rap sheet, they shut down parliament for months, fired civil service whistleblowers, ignored lawful requests for financial information, created a handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary meetings and processes, and flooded the airwaves with vicious attack ads.
Although the Conservatives were first elected to office in 2006 on the promise of having an honest and transparent party, Conservatives from top officials to staffers are being charged or investigated. The conservatives are the first party in office to be brought down on contempt charges in the history of the Canadian commonwealth. Recently four of the Conservative’s top officials have been charged with election overspending and two RCMP investigations have been launched against former political staffers.
This election is in large part about accountability, and now with the election looming, there is another massive misappropriation of taxpayer money. A report leaked earlier this month indicates that the Harper government illegally poured 50 million taxpayer dollars into a single Conservative riding and covered it up as G8 summit spending.
Even though the majority of Canadians oppose Harper, pundits predicted his reelection because Canada’s democracy is fractured and the votes are split across 4 opposition partied. In some ridings this translates to Conservative wins with less than one third of the votes.
However, the momentum is shifting as Canada’s youth are showing signs that they are serious about trying to defeat Harper on May 2nd. A new poll has the NDP gaining even more ground on the Conservatives, and experts say exceptional youth interest in the election could be responsible.
The latest Angus Reid Public Opinion survey, conducted on April 25 and 26, has the New Democrats sitting at 30-per-cent support, just behind the Conservative’s 35 per cent. The Liberals have slipped to just 22-per-cent support. Among decided voters between the ages of 18 and 34, NDP support shoots up to 37 per cent, up seven per cent since the middle of the month. The Conservatives trail behind at 28 per cent, followed by the Liberals with 22 per cent.
Canada needs to reform their electoral system, but in the interim mobilizing the youth vote and voting strategically is the best way to ensure that Parliament will represent the majority of Canadians.
Avaaz and Project Democracy have created a strategic voting tool that could tip the balance in several close races. This online tool helps people to vote strategically by identifying the leading opposition challengers in ridings where Conservatives are most vulnerable. Avaaz used a similar tool in the 2008 election that swung 6 seats away from the Conservatives. With just 10 seats separating Harper from the unchecked power of a majority government, voting strategically can at the very least keep the Conservatives at bay. Click here to use the strategic voting tool.
If the youth vote the way they did in advanced polling, Harper may not only be deprived of a majority, he may even fail to get enough support to form the next government.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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