Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, dropped by Alberni District Secondary School on Tuesday to engage with students and talk to them about electoral reform.
Students from both the high school’s Debate Club and Model United Nations Club, had the opportunity to learn from Johns and his constituency assistant, Dan Webb, about how the voting system in Canada works.
“We’re having a difficult time engaging young Canadians to vote and if we’re going to make sure people aren’t apathetic, especially young voters, we need to change the system so that it represents their values,” Johns said. “We’re failing democracy if our young people aren’t voting so how are we going to engage them?”
Johns said from listening to young Canadians, he has learnt that the majority of them want to make sure their vote counts so they have a say in the vision and future of the country.
“Other countries that have more proportional systems have more balanced budgets, better protection of the environment, healthier economies and more women in power and they tackle gender inequality in a much better way,” Johns said.
Johns said lowering the voting age to 16 has been an idea he’s heard throughout his time as MP, and one that he supports.
“Being around young people through the election, a lot of them were more informed than a lot of the doors I knocked on. They’re still engaged, the issues are really fresh and they have a really unique lens,” Johns said.
After the presentation, students had the chance to ask Johns questions. One student asked how soon Canada could see a new voting system.
“It’s a promise that the prime minister made for the next election,” Johns said. “With that being said, we have to have legislation in place by June if we’re going to make it for the next election.”
Jackie Chambers, teacher at ADSS, facilitates the Debate Club and said students who participate in the club are interested in current events and need to be aware of topics such as electoral reform.
“As we go to our tournaments this year this is more than likely one of the topics that will be addressed,” Chambers said. “They might have to stand up and debate the topics so we want to give them as much information as possible.”
The Model UN Club meets twice a week during students’ lunch breaks and the Debate Club meets weekly after school. The Debate Club will travel to Oak Bay on Dec. 3 for their first tournament.