We’ve seen Canadians start petitions addressing most of the policy issues you hear about on the campaign trail, and many you don’t hear about. But here’s yet another inspiring and exciting trend we weren’t really expecting: Canadians are increasingly turning to online activism to try to change or affect the political and electoral process itself.
While the new Elections Act doesn’t allow Elections Canada to promote voting among youth, that hasn’t stopped young Canadians from finding innovative ways to take up challenge of encouraging their peers to vote. Karilynn Ming Ho of Vancouver has taken a novel approach. Her #DrakeTheVote campaign asks Toronto-born rap superstar Drake to film a short video encouraging young people to vote. She’s asking: “Drake, will you ‘Make Us Proud’ and get Canadian youth out to vote?” With over 8000 supporters and some growing media attention, she just might convince him to do it. And could have a lasting impact: one of the keys to being a life-long voter is starting early.
Others campaigns include asking celebrities to tweet pro-voting messages, suggesting the voting age should be lowered to 16, and asking youth to pledge to vote. Many Canadians were hoping for a special leaders debate on youth issues, and while they didn’t get it, the effort no doubt had a positive effect on anyone who heard about or supported it.
The sheer volume of online activity around this campaign debunks the idea that young people are disengaged – they may be non-partisan, but they are certainly not apathetic.
That’s not to say that petitioning to change the system is only for 18-34 year olds. Aside from the youth debate petition, a dozen others started petitions about the frequency or structure of election debates. Up For Debate recently declared victory on its campaign to get the leaders to debate women’s issues for the first time since 1984. Emily in Winnipeg gathered over 7,000 signatures on her petition telling the Globe and Mail to invite Elizabeth May to their election debate, and John in Ottawa’s petition to proceed with the consortium debate has been signed by nearly 15,000 people.
There’s also a popular petition to ban wasteful elections signs, one to establish digital voting, one to reform the Senate appointment method, and dozens more addressing democratic reform or cooperation among opposition parties.
Canadians are using petitions to engage politicians in new and interesting ways, and on issues that speak to the very heart of our democracy.
This article also appeared on Huffington Post Canada