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Mission voters pushed to elect more young people to council

Multiple candidates in their 20s running this year
Candidates running for Mission mayor and council at a Sept. 27 meeting. (Bob Friesen photo)

A quick glance at the crowd at the Sept. 27 Mission all-candidates’ meeting is all you need to know about who votes in civic elections.

Older folks.

The crowd was about 80 per cent senior citizens and that tracks for most civic elections.

The fact is that it’s difficult to get young people out to vote in city elections, which see voter turnouts in the range of 25 to 40 per cent depending on the city.

In 2018, according to the site Civic Info, the Mission voter turnout was 31.7 per cent, well below the average of 35.6 per cent.

The numbers across B.C. are not good – well below the voter turnouts for provincial and federal elections.

This despite the fact that people have such good access to municipal politicians and so many decisions have a direct impact on their lives.

So why is it so many older people vote in civic elections?

One reason comes down to home ownership.

Voters who own their own homes pay attention because property taxes hit their wallets. Homes are so expensive these days that most people in their 20s can only dream of getting into the housing market.

People who consider themselves city “taxpayers” tend to get more involved in municipal politics because of such issues as tax rates as well as zoning issues that impact their local neighbourhoods from traffic to density.

So young people who don’t own homes aren’t as involved in civic politics as older folks. But another big reason is the fact that most of the choices on a civic election ballot tend to be older people running for office.

Many young people don’t have young people to vote for, but in Mission this year, that seems to have changed.

There are several candidates on the ballot who are young, including Sabastien Obi – the youngest candidate at just 20 years old – as well as Arsh Dhaliwal, Brandon Kealey, Tyler McStravick and Jag Gill. All are in their 20s.

Gill is a current city councillor and his election shows what can happen when young people run for election. Gill was the top vote-getting for councillor candidates with more than 4,000 votes.

All four of these young candidates spoke up at the all-candidates’ meeting about housing affordability and transit – topics that youth are most concerned about.

“We need more youth elected to council,” Kealey said, because they will push for the issues that will help out youth.

Gill said the city needs to create more affordable housing options through less red tape.

“It shouldn’t take a year to move your mom into a coach house,” Gill said.

RELATED: Meet your Mission civic election candidates

While Oct. 15 is election day, there is an advance voting event this Saturday, Oct. 8, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mission Leisure Centre.

Otherwise, polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 15.

To vote in this election you must be:

18 years or older;

a Canadian citizen;

a resident of B.C. for at least six months;

a resident of Mission;

not disqualified from voting under any law.


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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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