Sunday, 24 April 2011

Students MUST Vote

Vote Mob: A Non-Partisan Organization encouraging
 student voting.

Image Source:

 In this Federal Election there’s been quite a bit of buzz about student voting, with “vote mobs” organized on various campuses to get out the vote, a special polling station at the University of Guelph, and Rick Mercer’s video. But there is one thing that needs to be said: it’s (collectively) suicidal stupidity for students not to vote.

To understand why one must understand Stephen Harper and his goals. Harper was calling for austerity at the G8 meetings along with UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Cameron, backed by Nick Clegg (his junior partner in the UK’s Coalition Government), started off an austerity era with massive cuts to postsecondary education. Students in the UK are rightly furious with the higher burden and tuition this entails, given that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats party signed a National Union of Students pledge not to raise tuition. The Conservative-Liberal Democrats Coalition could safely ignore British students*, because as a group they didn’t vote.       

Marni Larkin: Campaign staffer
for various small c- conservatives
at city hall, large C-Conservative candidates
and Conservative Party  of Canada National
 Councillor for Manitoba.
Called the University of Winnipeg a
"no-fly zone", advising Conservative
candidates to avoid it.

Image Source:
Stephen Harper has similar near-term goals of austerity. His proposed budget** was merely an election tool. Though it contained some measures to help low-income Canadians, it was chalked full of tax credit goodies targeted mainly at middle to upper middle class Canadians who could afford to send their children to private arts lessons and the like. In future years, especially if Harper obtains a Majority, he will ram through an austerity agenda with an eye to permanently disabling Canada’s social safety net. As a matter of fact, he’s already started down this road by defunding select inner-city programs, shrinking the Government’s revenue base, and crippling the administrative ability of the Canada’s Public Service by scraping the mandatory Long-Form Census and cutting the Canada Revenue Agency’s budget.***
Slashing subsidies for Postsecondary education, however, would be the crowning jewel of any Conservative plot to dismember compassionate and good government. Canada has the highest portion of University graduates in the world, a figure that’s not very good for Rightwing populist ploys (Census-gate wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for the educated standing up and making their voices heard). Broad access among various social classes to postsecondary education also hurts the Conservatives by giving people a means to see how policy affects predicament and helps people of all classes identify their interests. While a small elite with legacy wealth attending university is harmless to the Tories, a broader base of educated youths is anything but.

Marty Burke (Guelph Conservative candidate, left) and
Michael Sona (Burke's communications director, right):
According to several witnesses, Michael Sona attempted to steal
a ballot box at Guelph University's Special Polling Station.

Image Source: Guelph Mercury

If not for anything else, students must exercise their civic right to vote in order to put a check on the contemptuous attitude Conservatives have displayed towards students. Marni Larkin (email here) referred to the University of Winnipeg as a “No Fly Zone” in a letter to Winnipeg Conservative candidates. There’s small c-conservative Mayor Sam Katz’s avoidance of University debates like the plague (guess who his campaign manager was). And then there's the outrage of Conservative candidate communications director Michael Sona's attempted robbery of a ballot box. Unfortunately, it seems this intimidation and other Conservative Party complaints have twisted Elections Canada into discontinuing special polling stations at campuses. What a world we live in.
For the future of broad and equal access  to education students MUST vote.  
*Okay, in subsequent mass demonstrations there was quite a bit of vandalism against the UK Conservative Party HQ. But I mean “safely” in the sense of “safe from the threat that votes would be lost”.               
**The budget wasn’t voted down, by the way. Rather, the Conservative Party was forced to call an election (due to a loss of the confidence of Parliament) on a motion where they were found to be in Contempt of Parliament.  This is the first time a government has gone down this way in any country that has a Westminster style Parliament.
*** In terms of “fiscal responsibility”, slashing the Canada Revenue Agency budget makes no sense. Revenue Canada’s budget of $7 billion in 2009-2010 fiscal year was nowhere near enough to enforce the payment of $25 billion in overdue taxes that had accumulated by March 2010.  Overdue taxes are 357% the size of Revenue Canada’s budget!


  1. People with post-secondary education are more likely to vote conservative. It is not in the Conservative's best interest to suppress education and build a larger 'underclass' of lower earning, less educated people because this demographic tends to vote Liberal or NDP.

  2. That is mainly due to education's indirect effect on political ideology - increasing income, which tends to increase conservatism. This post, to spell out the logic more clearly, is based on the notion that employment problems in Canada are largely structural now - no matter how educated the rest of the population becomes, there will be good paying jobs permanently out of reach. It's the danger of educating some of those "short end of the stick" folks that would motivate Conservative  cuts to education.    

  3. I think your notion is flawed. More than ever, decent jobs and wages are dependent upon post secondary education. There is always a certain level of structural unemployment, but there is no reason to believe that education, combined with mobility of labour, is less effective now in producing high paying jobs.

    It is also alarmist to suggest that he will "permanently disable Canada’s social safety net." Yes, there will be some cuts to transfer payments and certain other areas because we are in a deficit situation, but I would predict that they will be less severe that what you saw under the previous Liberal gov't. As for cutting funding to programs: this is something every gov't must do. Their mandates run out, other programs start up, etc. If you never cut programs, program spending would spiral out of control. Just like the cuts to arts programs: yes some programs were cut but overall spending still went up.

  4. I'll probably write a future post on the changing situation of students (if I'm not to lazy), but suffice to say the "premimum" wage of University educated workers has declined. A lot of students in earlier decades were able to take advantage of a pretty generous social safety net to gain a firm position in the middle to upper middle class (at which point they decided the whole thing was unneccessary). Furthermore, it has always been Harper's intent, from his days a Director of the National Citizens Coalition, to reduce Canada's "Northern European style welfare state". Many of his cuts (to the Canada Revenue Agency, scrapping the Long Form Census) are geared towards exactly that. Furthermore, why cut a very successful anti-Gang program right when Crime is a pillar of your platform?

  5. Furthermore, I'd like to add that of course Harper won't do very severe cuts in a minority situation. Nobody does that when a slight lose of votes could come of it or opportunistic opposition members would use it to bring down the state. But if in a more secure position, I am almost certain Harper would enact some pretty deep cuts.