Why millennials should vote

A power shift is at hand, and the current government knows it

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VANCOUVER, BC Aug 2, 2015/ Troy Media/ – It’s a pretty safe bet to guess what most Canadian seniors will be doing on October 19 this year. They’ll be queuing up in droves to vote. And if past experience is still a guide, the majority of them will be voting Conservative. Especially the Caucasian males amongst them.

Another safe bet is that Millennials, especially the children of the above queuing Boomers, will be wondering whether or not all this electoral foofaraw is worth the effort. As a retired university professor and long-time NGO volunteer and leader, I’ve had countless discussions with angry young men and women about what ‘my generation’ has wrought upon the world: imperialist wars, massive resource depletion, exemplary personal greed, and increasingly, big time, climate change. “My vote won’t change any of the crap you guys have already caused! You’ve stolen all my opportunity,” still rings in my head from one such memorable conversation.

Well, I think that assumption may be correct, but it doesn’t cut it as an excuse not to vote. And arguably, this upcoming Canadian election offers Millennials a first big chance to start driving the national bus. The tracking polls are indicating that the NDP is now neck- in- neck with the Conservatives, and the Liberals aren’t far behind the first two electoral horses. No matter what key Liberals say right now, a coalition of the willing is imminent, if the NDP doesn’t grab the traditional Canadian plurality majority with 40 per cent of the votes cast. A power shift is at hand, and the current government knows it.

If you need more evidence, just ask yourself why so many old Conservative war horses are choosing to follow John Baird into the inviting board rooms of Bay Street and Main Street. Corporate offers of more money are trumping (I apologize!) the imminent thrill of sitting in opposition and worrying about your expense claims being audited.

But, “So what?” you say. “Nothing is going to change.” Actually it is. We can already see it. The leading edge of the Boomers is starting to die. I realize this is a harsh statement, but a leading conceit of many Boomers is that they are immortal. A very wealthy Calgary acquaintance once told me that as long as he could jump on a jet and fly somewhere, he’d never die. “People don’t die going somewhere new and exciting!” Well, actually they do all the time. And he did.

And with him went an unbelievable life of excess. In the absence of such people, space opens up. Space for new dialogue, new approaches and new solutions to old problems. Arguably, that is the space the new Notley government has occupied in Alberta. Ask yourself where Jim Prentice and all the old Tory hacks went? They seemed to have ridden off over the horizon. “The great and powerful Oz has spoken,” but that’s about it.

In the growing absence of the Boomer clamour, there will be growing opportunities to rethink the carbon economy, the conflation of personal wealth and happiness, and the role of corporatism in defining self-worth and what you do to earn a living. All around me I see bright young people struggling with these issues and the decisions they beg. Many are becoming entrepreneurial in causes they support. They are choosing to own their means of production, and those means are tied to their values as well as their needs. In this process many are struggling with long hours, delayed bonding with life mates, and even later creation of families with children. Many are realizing that their educations prepared them for an old work paradigm that no longer exists. Or that the best education now available to them is the old school of hard knocks. But they persevere.

Persevering, or “keeping on keeping on” in the phrase of a Millennial pal, also implies embracing democratic means to public ends. A growing international crowd of unemployed and angry young citizens is trying out other options for societal change, and many of them lead to intractable, bloody violence. Incredibly, much of it is faith- based on profoundly undemocratic fundamentalisms, rooted in denials and patriarchal tribalism. Arguably the best opposition to these movements are counter examples rooted in pluralistic democracies like Canada. More than ever, these systems have to work, and be seen to work. To do so, the citizens have to vote.

Troy Media syndicated columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum, and the Bill Reid Gallery.

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