Thursday, December 16, 2010

In BC Liberal race it’s all about the kids

It’s early days in the BC Liberal race, but so far we’ve seen several notable efforts by the candidates to reach out to the youth vote. Which is smart, because people as young as 14 are eligible to join the BC Liberal Party and vote in this leadership race.

The first youth-friendly policy initiative of the campaign came from leadership candidate Christy Clark, who promised to raise the minimum wage (BC’s is the lowest in the country at $8/hour) and, more importantly for youth, scrap the training wage:
Clark said she’d raise the minimum wage above the $8 an hour mark, now the lowest in the country, and wants to scrap the $6 training wage given to young workers.

“We shouldn’t have the lowest minimum wage in the country. Whatever the minimum wage is, it should be the wage for everybody.”
Scrapping the training wage is a no-brainer ... but then again, the BC Liberals were completely brain-dead when they implemented the training wage in the first place because it’s a thoroughly stupid policy. The training wage allows employers to pay employees with no experience a wage below minimum wage for their first 500 hours of employment. Usually, it’s youth that get hit hardest. It’s discriminatory and exploitive, and it has to go.

As for the minimum wage, the current national average is $9.28, ranging from the low of $8 in BC to a high of $10.25 (with a few exceptions) in Ontario. I think BC should raise it to at least $10, and that’s still barely a living wage.

The voting age

In an even bigger move to court the youth demographic, leadership candidate Mike De Jong said Wednesday he favours lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 to get more youth civicly engaged before leaving high school.
"What happens now is Grade 12 students leave and the vast majority of them never vote, or if they do, they are 40 or 50 by the time they get around to it," he said.

Lowering the voting age could also help boost low voter turnout, he said. Only 51 per cent of 3.24 million eligible voters cast ballots in the 2009 B.C. election, down from 58 per cent in 2005 and 55 per cent in 2001.

Following De Jong’s commitment, Christy Clark said on Twitter and Facebook that she supported De Jong’s proposal.
I support Mike de Jong’s call to lower the voting age. Let’s get people in the voting habit earlier.
There’s no doubt a call to lower the voting age is obviously smart leadership politics. But is it smart policy? I’m inclined to say absolutely, but with one caveat: the move must be accompanied with focused and comprehensive non-partisan high school curriculum to engage and educate young people in civic issues.

We all know that youth voter turnout is low. Frankly, it’s low for everyone. In any demographic there are plenty of people that just don’t give a darn. But it’s a mistake to say that, overall, youth are apathetic. Many youth are concerned and engaged, they just don’t see the traditional political process as particularly relevant to them and affecting real change on the issues they care about. (In that, at least, the youth aren’t alone.)

Lowering the voting age is good leadership politics. A solid comprehensive plan to actually engage youth would make it great policy.

And a poll

In other BC political news, an interesting new Mustel poll out this morning gives the BC Liberals a five point edge among decided voters over the NDP, 41 to 36. It's a flip from last month's Mustel poll that had it NDP 42 BC Liberals 37, and appears fueled by a shift in female support away from the NDP to the BC Liberals.

On the leadership front, Mustel also shows strong support for Christy Clark, among both the general public and BC Liberals:
Former deputy premier Clark enjoys a strong lead over her leadership opponents, according to the Mustel poll, with support from 27 per cent of all voters, followed by Kevin Falcon at 11 per cent, George Abbott at 10 per cent, Mike de Jong at seven per cent and Moira Stilwell at two per cent.

When first and second choices are combined among all voters, Clark has the support of 37 per cent, compared with Abbott at 22 per cent, Falcon at 19 per cent, de Jong at 18 per cent and Stilwell at five per cent.

Among Liberal supporters, Clark leads again at 46 per cent, followed by Falcon at 35 per cent, Abbott at 30 per cent, de Jong at 24 per cent and Stilwell at four per cent.

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1 comment:

The Mound of Sound said...

Isn't it time we stopped calling them "Liberals" just because they're right of the NDP? They're also well right of anything remotely resembling liberalism.