By Lyonel Doherty
Suddenly, politics isn’t so boring after all for students at Southern Okanagan Secondary School.
This week social studies teachers and the Student Voice club staged a mock federal election for Grades 10 to 12 pupils to see how their vote will compare to the adult vote on Monday.
Social studies teacher Steve Podmorow said it gives students the opportunity to see what the different political parties are all about and where they stand on the issues. It also emphasizes why voting is important.
“Kids often suggest that their input isn’t valued, but in this case we get to see how kids across the country will vote in comparison to how the adult population will.”
It’s also a good measuring stick because these are the students who will be voting for real next time, Podmorow said.
The teacher admitted it’s a challenge because youth are not always interested in politics, and the same goes for adults. “So hopefully we are beating down (voter) apathy.”
Podmorow said the youth of today are more aware of what’s going on politically due to social media, and for some, getting the opportunity to vote feels good.
Student Khushi Sharma said they are not old enough to cast their vote for real, so this is a good exercise to see what it’s like.
“I just think it’s cool to see how my opinion compares to the (adult) voter’s opinion.”
Sharma said politics is not as boring as she thought it would be, adding that many youth realize that the issues really do affect them.
The issue that she is most passionate about is climate change, noting that she wants a leader who really cares about helping the next generation.
Grade 11 student Jasneen Tatla said she not only learned how to vote but the importance of knowing who to vote for after researching ahead of time what that person is going to do for you and your country.
Tatla said she has some interest in politics, stating she watched the leaders’ debate and found out their personalities.
The topics she would like to see more focus on are Indigenous issues and drug use among youth.
Tatla believes that her school should not have a “smoke pit” on site for students because it’s not healthy.
“This is a school, a place where you get education, not a place you come to smoke.”
Fellow student Bavneet Sooch said the voting exercise has been very useful in educating teenagers on how the voting process works.
Prior to taking part in the school-wide vote, she didn’t care about politics because it was “very boring.” But now she sees how it will affect her lifestyle when she gets older.
“If you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain. If you want to complain, maybe you should vote, and if you want changes maybe your vote will count.”
For Sooch, the issues she deems important are increasing immigration numbers and addressing gang violence.
Grade 11 student Rabbjot Mundahar said she likes seeing everyone working together to allow students to vote.
Like many students, she didn’t really care about politics, but now she’s learning about the issues, such as climate change and taxes.
The one issue she feels strongly about is drug use among teens and vaping in particular. She said schools don’t really do much about vaping, which is a serious health issue among youth today. The problem is teens vape to look cool and say they are not taking drugs, but they don’t really know what vaping chemicals they are ingesting.
Mundahar said she voted for the NDP because of free health care.
English teacher Catherine Scott said students took turns being scrutineers, polling clerks and returning officers during the vote which was as formal as possible to make it more authentic.
She acknowledged the help of the Student Voice club, which was spearheaded by Principal Tracy Harrington.
“It gives them an opportunity to be leaders and another way of giving back to the school. It’s a seed that is starting to blossom,” Scott said.
She noted the students have been exposed to many issues during the election, including the economy, climate change and the Trans Mountain pipeline.