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If You're Not At The Table You're On The Menu

I am a university student.

I am 19 years old.

I am a female.

To you, I may be unknown, an acquaintance, a friend.

But to the Canadian federal government, I am a statistic – and better yet, I am a vote.

I am essentially 1 in 36 million. Even if I shouted in a group this large at the top of my lungs, my voice would barely be heard by the people around me, let alone the people standing on the outside. A lot of people think of voting in the same way – even if you don’t vote, does it really make a difference?

In the 2011 federal elections, the voter turnout of Canadian citizens over 18 was 59% (Stats Canada). Essentially, just barely half the country decided how they would like their country to be run. By not voting, the remaining 41% essentially chose to remain silent.

But how can your one vote even make a difference? And why should you even care about these elections? You have spent at least 17 years of your life not voting and Canada seems to be functioning fine. Any one of the major parties would probably do an okay job of running the country, right?

Politicians are going to focus on issues that concern the people that vote for them. As students, we have unique interests and needs and if we don’t vote, politicians won’t care about our increasing tuitions, education quality, or our employment. Why? Because doing that won’t help them win.

By voting, we are saying, “Student issues should not be ignored.”

By voting, we are taking a stand and saying, “I matter.”

Because your vote does matter.

Maybe you might not be able to see the effect of one vote by itself, but once you start adding up these individual votes, how can they be ignored? If every one of the 36 million people in Canada shouted at the same time all across the country, who wouldn’t be able to hear?

And if we as students banded together and voted for what issues mattered to us, we wouldn’t be able to be ignored. Because when you vote, you not only represent yourself, but also the groups that you belong to.

And when I vote in October, I will be taking a stand and saying, “I can make a difference. As a 19 year old female university student living in Canada, I matter.”

Because you are significant.

And your vote does matter.

Because how can we truly call ourselves a democracy if barely half the population votes each time?

--Angela Mutoigo

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