Do you vote?

Politics is always in the news. But recently it feels like we’re in a ramped up period. Between Harper and the F-35s, the Quebec student protests, Toronto and Rob Ford, Alberta’s election and the spiraling free fall of the BC liberal party, the news is coming from all sides. And that’s ignoring the US elections which always get lots of coverage up here.

I’m a bit of a political junky. Probably because politics fits in well with an opinionated and judgmental personality (:P). I’ve voted in all but one federal/provincial/municipal election since I’ve been eligible. (The one I missed was when my grandma was in the hospital. She got to vote, but I missed the advanced polls and wasn’t in my riding during the actual election.) And I’m easily sucked into the news surrounding an election (which can be a huge time waster, especially if you’re on twitter).

As a student, it’s often easy to feel like politics have little to do with you. After all, you’re probably caught up in your studies, you may not have a family yet, and you likely pay little or no taxes. And, it’s quite likely that none of the parties are actively trying to get your vote. If you look at the current Alberta election, the only real issue so far that affects single adults (and really it affects everybody, not just them) is the possibility of conscience rights legislation.¬†Multiple parties are campaigning on the idea of reduced or no tuition – which sounds all good except it won’t happen for another 15-20 years!

I do believe it’s really important for everyone to get out and vote. And that it’s almost more important for students. Why students? Students are generally younger. We’re typically underrepresented in terms of how many of us vote. And because of that, the MLAs/MPs who get in rarely reflect our views. The only way to change this is to actually get out and vote. Even if you think democracy is broken and your vote doesn’t count, you need to get out and vote. Not voting is not going to solve the issue. But by voting, you can try to get better representation and attempt to find a candidate who wants to fix it.

Don’t think politics affects you? Not true.

Politics (at all levels) can have a lot of impact on university students. In Canada, municipal governments have impact on issues like public transportation, which most students rely on. The provincial budget determines how much funding the public universities receive, which ends up reflected to some degree in how much tuition students pay, and the services we receive. The federal government funds the National Research Council (NRC), which determines how much money is available for scholarships like NSERC and SSHRC (which are the most significant source of scholarships available for grad students in Canada).

If you’re researching a topic that may be considered controversial, who is controlling the government can impact whether or not you will be able to find and receive scholarships. The government has a lot of impact in shaping what research is done in the country. What benefits you qualify for, whether scholarships are taxable, and tax credits for tuition are all determined by the government.

In a post about politics, it would be remiss of me to not mention student government at the university level. I have to admit, in all my years of being a student I have only voted a few times and have never noticed or felt an impact from the elections. At my current university, the students who have been running Graduate Student Association have little power and are (or have been), to some level corrupt. However, getting involved at a higher level often means giving up an entire year of research, something I’m not willing to do. Instead, I’ll continue to focus on the politics that occur outside of campus, and work towards graduating quickly.

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